Ivan, who currently teaches in the University, has been categorized as a “gifted child.” Here, he shares his learning experiences and helps us understand the importance of being aware that people learn and perform in different ways, that we do not have the same capacity to process things, and that what’s needed is a welcoming disposition and a lenient perspective.
You have been categorized as a gifted child, and you have been with the Philippine Center for Gifted Education (PCGE). Tell us about the experience.
“PCGE’s logo is like an asterisk with a dot on one arm, underlining the concept of multiple intelligences. It highlights the importance of being well-rounded and being secured with oneself. People were from the arts and sciences, and the exchange of ideas was always enticing. My most unforgettable moment was my mentorship with national artist for literature F. Sionil José. He taught me to learn one word daily and use each word in five different sentences.”
The theory of multiple intelligences (MI) tells us that students possess different kinds of minds and therefore learn, remember, perform and understand in different ways. Does that awareness somehow give you a wider perspective and more understanding about the complexities of teaching?
“Very much so. Every student, every class, is different. MI revolutionized how we understand intelligence. It is not simply about what we know and how capable we are of thought. It is actually about productivity in, and contribution to, one’s field.”
Gifted children are the ‘divergent’ type – if we loosely base it on the movie/book series of the same name. They are creative thinkers, for one. They are also special and unique in that a different perspective is needed in dealing with them. What are your thoughts on that?
“Our mentors taught us that giftedness is equated not just to creativity, but also to productivity. Most gifted children are too eager to build or to create something, even before instructions are given. They need more freedom, time and space to create. Sometimes this can be difficult to achieve inside the classroom. This is why there are some gifted individuals who do not work well in a classroom setting. What they need is freedom. And a good workstation, too.”
What was your biggest challenge as a gifted child?
“The very label ‘gifted child.’ Sometimes people use the label against you – you are not given a leeway for mistakes, and the expectations mount up, which can become extra challenging to fulfill.”
You were mentored personally by Dr. Leticia Peñano-Ho, who is a distinguished personality in child psychology in the country and also a UNESCO Commissioner. What’s the most profound lesson you have learned from her?
“Dr. Ho is a fairy godmother. She’s very vibrant, energetic and fierce. She’s going well towards 70, and she’s aging well and traveling the world, working for her advocacy for the gifted. She taught me the importance of believing in a 'higher being.' She taught me that our abilities become more meaningful when we realize that these are lent, not fully innate.”
Now, for some random stuff…
Who inspired you in your life?
“My parents. They have given me space and time to grow, trusting me with my decisions. No parent is perfect. No one is. The thing is, children need to learn from their parents—not only from their successes, but also from their failures and mistakes.”
What was a situation you handled poorly in college that you have learned to handle differently?
“Balancing my academics with the things I do outside of the school. Twenty-four hours is always not enough to finish everything, but I think our abilities and strategies to get things done improve with age. I learned to settle with what I can only finish. Also, I learned to say no.”
What is your favorite anadrome?
“My name. Did you know Navi is a Hebrew word for prophet? I’m hardly one, but there are Ivan the Great and Ivan the Terrible, so I feel like it’s a very ambivalent name, which is funny ‘cause I think people can both be great and terrible in any given situation.”
What are the titles of the last three books you have read?
“The most recent books I read are in preparation for a course in graduate school. I read ‘The Joy Luck Club’ by Amy Tan, ‘The Corrections’ by Jonathan Franzen, and ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ by Gabriel García Márquez. The books are about testimonies and memories of members of families. I think that it is important that we understand how we are shaped — from our motivations and passions to our dreams — by the families we emerge from and how our actions affect the ones we love.”
What do you worry about?
“Growing old but never growing up!”
You’re a color in crayon box, what color would you be?
“Robin’s egg blue. That’s Crayola No. 33. For me, it’s the perfect combination of blue and green. It’s my favorite color.”
How would your best friend describe you?
“A nerd with a cheerleader’s vocabulary.”
If you could choose only one song to play every time you walked into a room for the rest of your life, what would it be?
“Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean.’ It’s classic, and I can moonwalk!”
How would people communicate in a perfect world?
“With kindness, generosity and love, of course. These are universal languages, and they don’t need translation. Any person from any culture would surely understand and appreciate such languages.”
What’s your perspective about luck?
“I don’t really believe in luck. I believe more in hard work — in getting one step ahead daily, in being better today than yesterday.”
Would you rather be liked or respected?
Ivan is a graduate of the University of Baguio. He majored in English at the University. He was editor-in-chief of the UB student publication for three years. At 18, his first creative nonfiction work was published by an American press. He participated in the National Debate Championships and was president of the Luzonwide Association of College Editors. He is a recipient of the Bagong Rizal: Pag-asa ng Bayan award and the Adivay Outstanding Achievement Award, an award handed by the province of Benguet to outstanding citizens. He belongs to the seventh batch of the Initiative for Peace Conference; the seventh Conference was held at the Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong.
Ivan was cheerleading captain in high school. He is a member of the Philippine Association for the Gifted and an alumnus of the Philippine Center for Gifted Education. He currently teaches literature, research, and creative writing in the University and is a correspondent for Rappler.
Photo by RENE PASCUA
BLOG EDITOR: RONA LIN