With friendly, accented voices and warm laughter, two retired teachers shared their stories of teaching in the Philippines and Canada.
Ninety-year-old Consdancia Basa (Connie) and 87-year-old Esperanza Villaverde (Espie) co-taught in the Philippines before coming to teach at Silverthorne Elementary School in Houston, where they taught for over 20 years.
“The first time I arrived [in Canada], I knew already how good are the Canadians,” said Basa, explaining how she and a co-teacher were taken in by the family of a missionary they met on the plane from the Philippines to Vancouver.
Basa says the family housed her and her co-teacher for the night and drove them to the bus depot in the morning after a quick stop at The Bay, where Basa bought her first winter coat.
Basa says that a year later, 1967, she convinced Villaverde to come from the Philippines, and the pair has lived, taught and retired together.
When Basa started teaching in the Philippines, she had only her high school diploma, and was six months into her college studies, but the school needed teachers, she said.
She continued her studies while teaching, and challenged the government social services test after her first year and earned her teaching certificate.
She continued her education during the 20 years she taught in the Philippines, and nearly finished her Masters in Mathematics – all except her thesis.
Basa resigned from teaching in the Philippines at 44 so that she could come and teach abroad, and Villaverde gave her a Smithers brochure.
Just a year later, 1967, Basa convinced Villaverde to follow her to Houston.
Villaverde taught in the Philippines for 14 years after she had gone through a two-year program and got her teaching certificate.
When she came to Houston she chose not to resign from her work in the Philippines, in case she didn’t like Houston and wanted to go back, she said.
“I tried my luck, and then I loved it,” she said.
Villaverde was supposed to upgrade her education within four years of coming to Canada, but she didn’t understand that, and instead spent her summers travelling and visiting relatives.
On her forth year she got a letter asking her to submit the education upgrades she had gotten.
“I did not have anything to submit! So I’m already going home,” Villaverde said.
She talked to the man who was board chairman at the time, telling him she was headed home because she didn’t upgrade her studies.
“He was very good to us,” said Villaverde, adding that he sat down with the principal and school district supervisor and agreed to let her stay, enrolling her in the University of Victoria for the next summer.
In her late 40s, Villaverde took summer courses at the university, with the faithful help of Basa, who moved there for the summer to live with her and help her with her studies.
Villaverde says that teaching in Canada was quite different from teaching in the Philippines.
“Because it’s so hot, [the Philippine children] move along very slow and no running, [but] oh, the children are really rambunctious here,” she said.
“Here, because it’s so cold, you will see them always running, no slow movements, always fast!” said Basa.
The curriculum in Canada was nearly the same as in the Philippines, Villaverde said.
She says Philippine children take character education as a subject, and already in elementary, the girls learn home economics and boys learn industrial arts.
“Here, mostly students are athletic, there they are mostly academic,” said Basa, adding that Canada is a “sports-minded country.”
The other difference is that the elementary system for upper grades in the Philippines was departmentalized, so teachers taught one course for all the different grades.
Basa taught Social Studies for older grades, and Villaverde taught grade one.
When they came to Houston, Basa chose to teach grades five and six, and Villeverde taught grade four.
“I enjoyed it very much, I enjoyed the kids, I enjoyed the co-teachers, [and] I enjoyed the authority (the principal),” Villaverde said.
“I’ve had so many nice experiences,” said Basa.
“I missed the kids when I retired,” Villaverde added.
Because of their health and age, the pair is packing up and moving to a seniors care home in Montreal – closer to New York where they have several relatives.
“It is very hard to leave Houston,” said Villaverde. “We are going to leave with a heavy heart.”
“We will be missing all our good, good friends,” said Basa, adding that their neighbours have been so good to them.
Neighbours Brian and Cathy Timms and Rod and Leslie Woodbeck have helped them for years, snow plowing their driveway, taking their garbage out and back in, said Basa.
“I love Canada, because of the good Canadians that we met,” she said.
“That is the most important thing, why I stayed in Canada, because of the many good people, many good Canadians who were very good to me,” she said.