(from: Waldorf Education Worldwide, pp. 138-139, Note the Copyright!)
Ever since the Portuguese Fernao de Magalhaes (1480-1521), working for Spain, discovered the island world of the Philippines for Europe, western influences have been leaving their stamp on this land. Its name refers to the Spanish King Philipp II (1527-1598). Catholic missionaries spread their faith and Manila, the capital city, was furnished with a castle, a kind of city within the city, which became a strategically important trading station for Spain. Since then immigrating Europeans, Chinese and Americans have made the Philippines a multi-cultural state. Today about 90 regional languages are spoken. Among the most important, apart from English, are the Filipino language Tagalog, and Cebuano. Both are spoken by about one quarter of the population. The first Waldorf initiative in South East Asia started in the 1990s in Metro Manila, as people call the capital city with its 8 million inhabitants and its sprawl of unmanaged outskirts and slums.
How Waldorf Education first entered South East Asia
Four Filipinos, Nicanor Perlas, Joaquin and Bella Tan and Mary Joan Fajardo, began to meet together in 1987 to consider Waldorf Education. Thereafter some of them studied at the teacher training seminar in Melbourne, Australia and at Spring Valley, USA. Between 1992 and 1994 the two women travelled to the Mountain Province in the North and the islands Bohol and Negros in the Visayas Region to the south of Manila where they lectured and gave workshops on Waldorf and early childhood education for teachers at day-centres, orphanages and kindergartens, for workers on sugar plantations and interested parents. In 1992 they founded the Association for Rudolf Steiner Education in the Philippines. The first kindergarten for 10 children, also founded in 1992 on the biodynamic Ikapati Farm, soon had to close again for lack of interest.
A second attempt in 1994 led to the founding of a kindergarten in New Manila, Quezon City (12 km outside Manila). In 1996 Class 1 opened with 4 and later 6 children. In the year 2000 the Manila Waldorf School had two playgroups for mothers and children, two kindergarten groups with 43 children, and 53 children in 5 classes.
Emphasis on nature is strong in the school, since play with sand and natural materials is not customary in the metropolis. The farming main lesson is much appreciated for the same reason. Class 3 children go on an excursion to a biodynamic farm at Tiaong, Quezin, to experience rice cultivation. They turn up their trouser-legs, wade through the mud, make straight lines with a plough and plant the rice seedlings as they stand up to their knees in water. Some of the seedlings are also taken back to the classroom where their growth can be watched.
Science as art and magic
Who are the parents who send their children to this school? One mother gave her reasons in a letter to a friend:
“Do you remember our chats during our schooldays? Lying on your bed, exhausted from battling with the biology text-book, we imagined how chemistry could be taught as magic and biology as art? Neutrons, protons and electrons began to dance like a picture by Gustav Klimt. Couldn’t we understand better how cells function if we could touch them with our thoughts? That was our way of rebelling against teachers who only wanted us to learn everything by rote in order to get good marks so that our parents wouldn’t remove us from the school, and against supervisors who warned us to keep our feet and our questions to ourselves. We dreamt of a school where knowledge is presented as insight, where there are colours and not only numbers, and where children are seen as complete human beings. We promised ourselves that were we ever to find such a school we would take our children there in a fraction of a second. Well, I’ve found a school like that! Or perhaps it has found me. It’s called a Waldorf School. My four-year-old son Alekos goes there, and within a year he has become such an imaginative, interested and easy-going boy that every evening I stroke his face to reassure myself that he is still the same child.”
The teacher training work done by the two founders of the school has also born fruit outside Manila. In 1998 a small Waldorf-inspired kindergarten group opened on the island of Cebu to the south of Manila. In 1999 two mothers started a play-group for mothers and children in Ayala Alabang also in the southern part of the country. In the same year a state kindergarten in Isabela, in northern Manila, took over elements of Waldorf Education and hopes gradually to transform itself.
Waldorf teacher training also attracts social workers
Since 1996 regular further training seminars for teachers have been taking place in Manila, held by guest lecturers from Australia, the USA and Europe. The Friends of Waldorf Education presented their exhibition “Waldorf Education” in the Vargas Museum of the University of Manila in 1996, and this has drawn the attention of a wider public to the work. Thanks to the Round Table Discussion initiated by the Friends of Waldorf Education, which brings pioneers of Waldorf Education in Asia together, a 3-year part-time teacher training course came into being in Manila in 1999. It has 38 participants from several Asian countries and is supported financially by the International Federation of Waldorf Kindergartens in Stuttgart, Germany. Especially interested are teachers in private kindergartens, day-care centres and orphanages as well as social workers who work with street children and children from the disadvantaged sectors of the population. The desire for educational suggestions concerning children with learning difficulties and disabilities led in January 2001 to the first course on curative education.
The Manila Waldorf School today
It is still early days for Waldorf Education in the Philippines. The only Waldorf School is a private school receiving no support from the state, so that parents have to finance the whole thing. The school has been officially recognized by the Ministry for Education and has been granted a licence. It is gaining increasing recognition among the general public thanks to many reports in the press and also mouth to mouth propaganda.
BELLA C. TAN
Bella C. Tan
Kindergarten teacher; responsible for further training courses and contact with Waldorf Schools abroad.