MANILA - As teachers all over the country begin another school year, many of them are calling on President Rodrigo Duterte to deliver on one of his campaign promises -- a pay hike for educators in the public sector.
For 17 years, Ilyn Nabong has been juggling her responsibilities as a single parent and an elementary teacher.
While she has only two children of her own, she could not avoid shelling out cash for her teaching duties.
With her salary of around P20,000 a month, she sometimes ends up borrowing money.
"Ultimo 'yung pera paghahatian ng mga anak mo at mga bata na tinuturuan mo. Napakahirap ibalanse nun. Minsan hindi mo naman pwede pabayaan ang paaralan na kailangan ng mga bata... Hindi ka pwedeng magturo at humarap sa mga bata mo na kamay lang ang dala mo," she said.
(I had to divide my money between my children and the students I was teaching. It was difficult to balance. You could not just neglect the school and the students’ needs... You could not also teach and face the children with just your hands.)
Nabong is one of the educators who signed the petition of the Teacher's Dignity Coalition, calling on Duterte to declare as "urgent" Senate Bill 704 in the coming congressional session.
The measure would mandate P10,000 additional pay for public school teachers and Department of Education employees, which would be separate from their basic salary and be given in three tranches over a three-year period.
The measure would also mandate a P1,000 annual allowance for medical check-ups, and an annual bonus set by the half-century old Magna Carta for Teachers which has yet to be implemented.
It is the coalition's way of reminding Duterte to make good on a pay-hike promise he made during the campaign, and which he repeated at a meeting with teachers in Davao in May.
Duterte, however, cautioned that the salary increase would not be like the hike already given to soldiers and police, which was double their current rates.
Still, the group hopes to gain 500,000 signatures throughout the country in time for the President's State of the Nation Address in July.
"Hindi lang naman ngayon bayani ang mga teachers natin, araw-araw. Kahit bakasyon at weekend ang guro natin ay guro pa rin... It would boost the morale of our teachers. Maramdaman naman na pinapahalagahan ng ating pamahalaan ang ating mga guro," Benjo Basas, Teacher's Dignity Coalition national chairperson, said.
(Our teachers are not just heroes during the school opening but everyday. Even on vacation or weekends our teachers are still teachers... It would boost the morale of our teachers. They would feel the government is valuing them.)
The night before public schools open for classes, the teachers prayed for strength and a successful school year. They also lighted candles with the hope that their years of sacrifice for their families and students, would finally be given a little more compensation.