They came bearing sticks, not placards; and with these sticks, they whacked at clay pots in a traditional Filipino game commonly played by children. But the games they played were, like placards, cries of protest; albeit, more unique.
This was how a group of public school teachers chose to get their message across to the Philippine government. Their demands? ‘”Prioritize our welfare.”
The unique demonstration, dubbed “Palarong Pampista,” was participated in yesterday by one hundred members of the Teacher’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) from Metro Manila, in order to demand salary increases this year.
During the protest, held at Manila’s Plaza Miranda, teachers played traditional fiesta games such as Palo Sebo and Basagang Palayok “to demonstrate their sacrifices for the country despite the inadequate compensation from the government.”
Although the protest seemed like a day of fun and games, the teachers mean serious business. Part of a series of demonstrations in May, a month the group dubbed as “Protest de Mayo” (a take-off from the traditional festival, Flores de Mayo), the government teachers are calling for a P10,000 across-the-board increase in their salaries. They are likewise demanding for the scrapping of the “performance-based bonus” of the Aquino government which they described as “deceptive, unfair and divisive.”
National Chairperson of the TDC. Benjo Basas, explained that Palo Sebo and Basagang Palayok were symbols of the government’s is treatment of public school teachers.
Basas likened Palo Sebo – in which contestants attempt to climb up a greased bamboo pole with the objective of getting the money prize at the top of the pole – to the government’s performance-based bonus or PBB.
“It promises a cash prize, but teachers and employees need to fight and pull others down in order to be on top,” he explained.
In the Basagang Palayok , on the other hand, players are blindfolded and given a stick with which to s hitting and break open a hanging clay pot filled with prizes. Basas used this to illustrate their demand for a wage increase in that “the player is blindfolded, and like the P10,000 salary increase demand, the prize is uncertain and the players must make all the effort and pass the obstacles.”
Meanwhile, Education Secretary Armin Luistro said that the Department of Education (DepEd) “recognizes the right of our teachers to raise their concerns publicly.”
He said further that the department “will not object to any measure that will help public school teachers. As long as there is adequate funding, a raise in teachers’ salaries will be welcome.”
On the heels of this support, however, Luistro also enjoined “certain groups not to take any action that greatly affects the delivery of basic services to our learners;” in light of impending demonstrations.
TDC is a 30,000-strong group, and has scheduled several other protests throughout the month of May, up until the resumption of classes in publics schools on June 2.