By Rosabell C. Toledo | Special to the BusinessMirror
DAFROSA Y. Zagala first worked for the government right after she graduated from Philippine Normal College (now Philippine Normal University) in 1970.
Then, she was a wide-eyed, fresh-faced public-school teacher at age 20.
Now, at 66, she is enjoying her first year of retirement at her home in Makati, looking back at a whole lifetime spent serving the people.
“Ma’am Daf,” as she is fondly called by her former students, former colleagues and close friends, remembers how much her family inspired her to be a public servant.
“My dad encouraged me to teach in a public school near our residence, since we were a family of committed, unselfishly devoted educators,” she said.
Her father was a law-school professor, who taught Spanish, her mother a public-school teacher, and she had aunties who held guidance-counselor positions in various public schools.
Ma’am Daf thought theirs were the best footsteps to follow, so much so that she never even considered leaving public teaching.
Ma’am Daf said she truly “enjoyed teaching physical education [PE] and was inspired to teach by skills.”
As a PE teacher and coach to countless students’ sports teams spanning her 46 years of teaching, she was able to produce champions in gymnastics, ball games, racquet games, aqthletics and other sporting events. She explained, however, that producing medalists is not the be-all and end-all of teaching PE.
“I wished to make physical education better for all children, not only to the athletically gifted or physically fit, but all the more to those who are physically and mentally challenged,” she said.
To better achieve what she sought out to do in sports development, Ma’am Daf got a master’s degree in teaching physical education, and a PhD in Educational Management at the Philippine Normal University.
The way she paved in order to fulfill her ambitions, however, could not be considered a smooth one. She cites unequal enthusiasm on the part of local government units (LGUs).
“As a PE teacher of the Department of Education [DepEd] in Makati, I experienced lack of support from the LGU. We did not have sound sports facilities back in the 1970s. Also, there weren’t enough knowledgeable PE-major teachers to handle classes, so I singlehandedly took on coaching [all the sports teams in] the entire school I was working for at the time, Maximo Elementary School in Makati,” she recalled.
She also recounted how the school didn’t have a sports complex. All these challenges proved weak, however, compared to Ma’am Daf’s hard work, dedication and passion. Against all odds, she was able to raise the rank of their school, their district and their division, DepEd Makati to third place out of 17 participating in the DepEd-NCR games (NCR Palaro), next only to champion Manila and runner-up Quezon City. She mirrored this feat for eight consective years.
All her hard work didn’t go unrewarded. She was able to climb up the ladder—after five years of being a PE teacher; she worked 10 years as District PE Coordinator for Makati District IV, before becoming the Division PE Supervisior for the whole city. After catapulting Makati to glorious finishes in sports competitions, she decided to move forward.
“I decided to leave Makati and move on to the Regional Office of DepEd NCR. There were only three of us in the Regional Office, and all of us were women. But DepEd NCR maintained and still maintains supremacy in the entire Philippines for 11 consecutive years, with the help of team work and prayer.”
Ma’am Daf could definitely be likened to King Midas, for she turned into gold whichever sports team she handled, but she refused to take all the credit. After all, she did all that she did for the glory of God.
Now that she is happily retired with enough feathers on her cap to last several lifetimes, she spends her time doing the Lord’s work.
“I still have to run a mile for the parishioners of Saint John of the Cross Parish in Pembo, Makati, and the Divine Mercy Chapel in the same city to earn more harvests as there are only a few servants to lead us in the pursuit of Spiritual Excellence,” she said.
Ma’am Daf serves as chapel coordinator to the Divine Mercy Chapel, and both Lector/Commentator and Mother Butler for the Saint John of the Cross Parish. These responsibilities take up most of her time, but there is no denying the teacher in the woman, for she still renders her services every Saturday as Graduate Studies Professor at the Philippine International College, Professional Teachers of Sports, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, formerly National College of Phyical Education.
Her 46 years in PE taught her that “in competitive sports, we break borders, see beyond differences and form the mind-set of seeing fellow athletes as partners, instead of as rivals.”
Truly, Ma’am Daf’s selfless commitment to public service and skills development at the grassroots are worth emulating. She realizes, however, that not many young people would think of public service as their career path of choice. She laments this, but she also hopes to inspire more young ones to go the same path she did:
“The Philippine Government wants you! Dream something big for the country, and don’t allow us to be the lagger of Asia. Change Philippine history—you are the future of the Filipino people,” she tells those who are next in line.
Ma’am Daf hopes to entice more 20-year-olds to tread the ways of service, as she did almost 50 years ago. She also hopes they would never look back, the way she never did.
After all, she has lived a life worth remembering, a life one could be most proud of. Was it without a struggle? No. Were those struggles worth it, though? Undeniably so. Would she do it all over again?
“Without batting an eyelash,” she said.
Image credits: Rosabell Toledo