Marlo Diosomito oral history interview and transcript, December 21, 2020

Rice University

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0:10 - Describing his familial circumstances growing up in the Philippines

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Partial Transcript: Okay, so it's—m-my life is a little bit complicated. It's almost like a novel, I would say. I think I told your class a little bit about it, right? So yeah, so my dad, he was very wealthy, whenever, wait no, when I was—from what I, I would remember when I was born, he used to have a film production in the Philippines.

Keywords: divorce; General Santos City; grandmother; Manila; Mindanao; scholarship; siblings; small town; University of the Philippines; walk to school

Subjects: childhood; family; neighborhood; Philippines

10:26 - Describing his academic experiences in the Philippines

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Partial Transcript: I would say it was—okay. So I truly enjoy schools. I enjoy science and math, I would say that I'm–I'm ahead of my class in reading when I was a kid.

Keywords: camping; chickens; choir; enjoyed learning; family farm; fraternity; grandaunt; language; military training; Notre Dame of Lago; scholarship; skipped grades; struggles; tutoring; University of the Philippines

Subjects: education; Philippines

28:51 - Describing his first teaching experiences

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Partial Transcript: I actually applied to be, to work at McDonald's. I applied to work at Jollibee, which is like the fast food restaurant, stuff like that anywhere for as long as I can get something. And I saw an opening. And it's with the United Nations. And I saw, let me try this, because they're looking for any college graduate.

Keywords: Amerasian students; American culture; Bataan; beach; competitions; cultures; design curriculum; Dole Philippines School; fashion show; first job; graduation party; Philippine Refugee Processing Center; research; students; teacher; United Nations refugee program

Subjects: occupation; pedagogy; Philippines; refugee

51:16 - Describing his immigration to the United States and his subsequent teaching career in Texas

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Partial Transcript: So from Dole, I went to grad school. So I did a study on environmental—since working at Dole, I really know how–how contaminated water systems are.

Keywords: APAA; Asian stereotypes; Booker T. Washington; built a school; career; culture shock; Cy-Fair ISD; Energy High School; environmental studies; Filipino teachers; Fonville Middle School; freshmen engineering program; HISD; Houston; Iligan Institute of Technology; inquiry-based learning; instructional coach; KIPP Houston High School; Lee High School; master's degree; passion; PVA; racism; research; Rice lab program; STEM program; student protests; teaching; Texas; Wisdom High School

Subjects: career; education; Houston; passion; pedagogy; Texas

93:07 - Describing how the COVID-19 pandemic affected his ability to teach students

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Partial Transcript: I think it made, definitely made teaching harder, definitely, I mean, that's 100%. Even with AP Chemistry last year, we weren’t able to cover the topics as strongly as the you know, as I was able to teach your class, you know what I mean, we get to acid-base, like acid base equilibrium. We didn't get to electrochem.

Keywords: challenges; College Board; COVID-19; curriculum; helping students; pandemic; scientific literacy; Texas Education Agency

Subjects: COVID-19; education; Houston; passion; pedagogy; perspective; Texas

99:47 - Discussing his perspectives on Filipino heritage and teaching

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Partial Transcript: So it's—there is a Filipino community that, actually not even community of Filipinos, it's actually an Asian community that I wanted to get involved with. And one of them also is the Asian Democrats Society. I mean they're—it's a political group for Asian–Asian Americans. But it's a Democratic Party, Asian that–that actually reaches out to oth-, reaches out to other Asians, because I know for a fact the importance of political activism when I was in the Philippines and growing up.

Keywords: Asian community; Filipino American; food; holidays; integrity; passion; racism; retirement; siblings; sing karaoke; teaching students; traditions

Subjects: advice; Asian; community; culture; Filipino American; goals; wisdom


Houston Asian American Archive (HAAA) Chao Center for Asian Studies, Rice University

Interviewee: Marlo Diosomito

Interviewer: Lia Stallmann

Interview Date:12/21/2020

Transcribed by: Lia Stallmann

Reviewed by: Sonia He

Track Time: 2:01:51

Background: Marlo Diosomito was born in Manila, Philippines on July 3, 1970. After growing up with his grandparents from a young age, he attended the University of the Philippines studying math and chemistry. Immediately following his graduation, he began teaching ESL and STEM instruction at a United Nations refugee program in Bataan. Diosomito then taught at the Dole Philippines International School before immigrating to the US in 2000, teaching at several secondary schools within the Houston Independent School District and other nearby districts. He currently teaches Pre-AP and AP chemistry at the Kinder High School for Performing and Visual Arts; he also has participated in individual research at institutions like University of Houston and Rice University. In this interview, Diosomito also discusses his experience in designing curriculum, teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic, and perspectives on a secondary school teaching career.

Setting: This interview took place on December 21, 2020 over Zoom. Note: Interviewer Lia Stallmann was a student of Mr. Diosomito's at the Kinder High School for Performing and Visual Arts for two years.


MD: Marlo Diosomito

LS: Lia Stallmann

--: speech cuts off; abrupt stop

--: speech trails off; pause

Italics: emphasis

(?): preceding word may not be accurate

[Brackets]: actions (laughs, sighs, etc.)

Interview transcript:

LS: All right, we're recording. So today is December 21, and I am here interviewing Mr. Marlo Diosomito. The first question is when and where were you born?

MD: I was born in Manila in 1970, July 3. [LS: And--] I think it was a hospital in Manila, so I don't remember, because I was, you know, I was--nah, just kidding [laughs]. No, from what I was told by my mom. Okay. Yes.

LS: So how would you describe the household that you grew up in?

MD: Okay, so it's--m-my life is a little bit complicated. It's almost like a novel, I would say. I think I told your class a little bit about it, right? So yeah, so my dad, he was very wealthy, whenever, wait no, when I was--from what I, I would remember when I was born, he used to have a film production in the Philippines. Yeah, actually, he--he's--he's rich, and my mom together and then w-when I was five years old, I was just flown back to nowhere in somewhere in 1:00Mindanao, which is like in the middle of nowhere. [LS: Could you spell that please?] Say again? General Santos City. That's the name of the place. General Santos City. It's in the southernmost tip of Mindanao, it's on Sarangani Bay. It's actually, Mindanao--I don't know if you heard of Manny Pacquiao, he's a boxer and so on. He's actually from that area.

And, yea, so it's a place where I do remember when I was a kid, there's no electricity. Roads are not paved. There may be like, four or five, transportation Jeepneys that goes around the city. And it's every one hour or thirty minutes or something like that, like you really have to wait for it to 2:00get there. So that's where I--so five years old I was, I--I was sent to my grandmother who live there. We don't have--our house, it's like hot floor, it's like, it's really like dirt, you know what I mean, and bam-bamboo slats, and so on, and you sleep on the floor, stuff like that. And we walk--there was, I was five years old, and then I was sent to school. There was first grade. They put me in first grade. We sometimes walk to school about three miles, I think, I would say, or four miles away, because there's no school bus. If there's a Jeepney, then there is a Jeepney, whatever. So that's what I remember.

So I didn't see--so there was a, that was when I was a kid. So I didn't see my 3:00dad, ev-every time I ask about my parents, they would say, oh, they're working in Manila. They're gonna be--I'm gonna go back to Manila soon, because we have a nice house in Manila. And then suddenly, I'm living in a place where we have an outhouse as a restroom, you know what I mean, we don't even have a bathroom. We have to pump our water and so on. We get chickens in the yard. We garden. There's snakes. In fact, I do remember Cobras. I'm not kidding. There's like, sometimes the snake would get inside the house. That was so scary. I do remember that when I was a kid. Yeah, it is. Yeah, it's-- because it's so hot, and they'd say, like, the next neighbor is like several meters. I mean, it's like grassland and trees and something like that. We even have fireflies still. And it was, it was, it was--General Santos before was pretty tiny, maybe about 50,000 people, for the whole city or even less. But it's, it's a very, very small town where everybody knows everybody. Like we know everybody who lives on the street from like, more than a mile away. So, you know what I mean? So when you ride the public transportation, you would say you have to tell them where you're going to get off, to go family or like our house. Everything we'd--my grandmother ride the Jeepney, you know, she would, she would just say, oh, just dropped me off in [Oben's?] house. That's my grandmother's last name. I didn't know where that is. 4:00It was weird. Yes.

LS: So very small town basically.

MD: Very small town. That even we know the name of the drivers. We know the name of everybody, know the people in the market. It's weird. Now it's like a city. I--I went and visited after my grandma--my mom died like the year after. It's now--I--I won't recognize the city, now a city of maybe 500,000. Or even more? Yes. Yes. I don't even never know the neighbors anymore. Yeah.

LS: Yeah. So where were your parents born? And do you know they had like a similar experience to your's growing up?

MD: Oh, from what I know my father, because I--okay. I haven't met my, I didn't see my, I didn't see my father again until I was in college. So I grew up with my grandmother, and it was a farm. Then I would think I was nine or ten years old when my mother suddenly showed up in our house. Yeah, in my grandmother's house. And it turned out that they separated. And we didn't know about it. We didn't talk about it. It's something that we don't mention or talk about in--in our house. You know what I mean, it's--you know how it is in an Asian community? Yeah, there's always a stigma about parents separating. So it's something that, you know, in the community even, I didn't know. So every time people would ask that, what would just say, oh, my father works in Manila. And when I was, when I came to, when I, when I got to high school, I started to, like, and realize like, oh, there's something missing here. There's something wrong, right?


So when I was in college, I got a scholarship to go to the University of the Philippines. That's when I met my dad. And that's when I got to know more about him. But slightly, I would say, because I didn't really live with him. So in fact, the weirdest thing is the first time he saw me, he asked me if I have money, so we can eat lunch. And that was so sad. Because number one, I don't have money. Number two, I was on scholarship, university scholarship. So I only work, live on the stipend my--my--the university gives me, which is about $10 a month. Yeah. So I work part-time, and I, I got a scholarship, I mean, the tuition is free to begin with. The tuition, the tuition, the books, and so on, 6:00they--they provide me everything, except for my daily living. So yeah.

LS: So do you have any siblings?

MD: I do. Yeah, I have--oh that's another sad story. Okay. So people, well, I don't know if I--I told your classes, but it's really like, you know, so when my mom and dad separated, so I was--we were the first one that was sent to Mindanao. Then after that, my other two siblings, so it was me and my--my younger sister. She's still in Mindanao, actually, right now. She, she was--we were first sent to live with my grandmother, then about several months or years after, then my two other siblings came in, my older brother and my older sister. So they came in to live with us--and one of my younger brother, so three of them came in. And then, what happened after that? Oh, so that's like six of us now. Right? So, then I found out that we have a seventh brother, the youngest one, which actually was left in the hospital after he was born. And we never heard about him. I mean, every time I asked my mom about it, she would cry, and she 7:00would get mad. So again, it's something that we never talked about in the family. But I insist and my siblings insist. And all we know is--and nobody would tell us, none--none of our elders. If you think about it, we were kids. So we have no idea, and we don't know what to do. So all we know is the kid, the g--my younger brother was left in the hospital. Then he was apparently adopted by one of my cousins, which I did not even know who because he was my apparently cousin from the father side. And if I asked my family members in the father side, who I'm not close to because I never really lived with them, or never get to know them, they won't tell us. So it's--it's a kind of a sad situation. So now we don't know where our younger brother is. So what he said is he was adopted, he moved to the United States. So I'm hoping that one of these days, I'll find him. So every time I see a, somebody with my last name, I would always 8:00ask. Yeah, I would kind of research. Yeah. So maybe I would see him one of these days.

LS: So you said you lived with your grandmother, right?

MD: Yeah, I live in my grandmother. Yeah. And my grandfather, I would say. And aunts and uncles. It's like an extended family house. So we all live in one house. It's like two bedrooms, and there's like about maybe ten of us, maybe eight of us, in a small house. Yeah. Typical, like Asian, you know what I mean?

LS: Yeah. And so, like, what do you--what would you say are some of the values that your grandmother brought you up with? Or your grandfather?

MD: I would say hard work and perseverance. I would say, you persevere, you live 9:00within--within your means, because we didn't have anything, but we--we still always, like, there's always a hope, I would say, that you get better. That's exactly what she always tells us. I mean, hard work that, you know, just keep on doing your best in everything that you do. I think that's one thing that she always tells us, instills in us, like you know, do your best in everything that you do. So it's interesting. I mean, come to think of it they really like--before I would, I'm afraid to talk about this, by the way, Lia. I mean, even when I was when I first, like, even in college, I never talked about this because I'm ashamed of what's happened to my family. But you know, later on realize that it's not, it's not my fault. Somebody told me that like, you know, eventually I got a cathar-catharsis of like understanding that, hey, what 10:00happened to my family is beyond my control. But I have a control over my own future. Maybe that's the reason why you kind of know me as I am at PVA, right?

LS: Um, so about like your earlier education, like primary and secondary school, like, how would you describe your experience at school in the Philippines?

MD: I would say it was--okay. So I truly enjoy schools. I enjoy science and math, I would say that I'm--I'm ahead of my class in reading when I was a kid. In fact, I--I told you, I graduated early because I kind of like, you know, I get into the mode of learning earlier, I actually went from sixth grade, then I went straight to high school, you know what I mean, I skipped the middle school. Um, but the other thing that also I, something that was difficult for me is the fact that there are a lot of activities were there, or--I went to a Catholic school, okay? And there's a lot of, you know, activities where they require 11:00parents to be there. And my parents were never there. Because number one, my mom was still, I would say languishing over her separation. And she doesn't want to see people, or she says--she always, she lives in a [shack?], kind of, like, behind the back of her, there's this kind of idea of like, you know, I don't want people to ask me about where my husband is.

And I also found out, by the way, that I have, my mom was a second wife. And in Asia, it's kind of like in the Philippines, there's a stigma about being second wife, before. And kind of she, she, she's--she's that kind of ashame of that, I would say. That's why she never attends any of our--and also, we're also didn't have money. So every time there's a extracurricular event, we can't participate. So I really just focus on academics, that's all I can do. Yes. And my teachers and nuns have favorites, al-always, you know, I mean, they, they like people with money, and they like people who can donate, and we can't, so. But it's 12:00still okay. I mean, in general, I would say I--actually, I joined competitions, and I won, which I, for me, those are the things that I--I kind of cherish when I was in school. In spite the fact that I can't join the other things, but I focused on other things that I can do.Yeah.

LS: And so you mentioned some of these, but like, what were some other challenges that you face, like, academically or socially or?

MD: Socially. So again, being the fact, the fact that, you know, having without, you know, hav--without a lot of parental support, you're practically on your own, you're always, how do I say, insecure, with so many things that you know, that your classmates have, and you don't. Come on, you're kid that, right. And you see your classmates having this, you know, brand new shoes, or--we maybe get to buy shoes every other year, I have to wear my shoe still is like, you know, the sole is like almost, almost like, you know, open, like that I can no longer like totally wear it. If it's, if the shoe's like partially opens or to get pierced or something we find a way to like fix it. Until its totally --Because we didn't have money again, and all my clothes are hand me downs, and so on. So socially, I didn't fit--in terms of my classmates always had new things and, and being in a private school, Catholic school, you kind of like have classmates who are, how do I say, who can afford, like, whatever the teachers asked him to us to bring, especially for class projects. That's why even in your class, when if there's a class project that your classmates can bring, I would volunteer to bring it for them, because I know how it feels when I was a student when I don't 13:00have anything. And I totally can, you know what I mean? I can think--we have an art class, but the problem is I don't have art supplies. So I would just imagine how it looks like, you know what I mean? I would improvise. And I think that's, that's how I learned how to improvise a lot of things.

LS: I see. Cou-could you give me the name of the school real quick?

MD: It's Notre Dame. It's a Notre Dame school. Can you believe that? Notre Dame of Lago. Yeah. Lago is L-A-G-O. Yeah, so that's name of the school, Notre Dame of Lago. And then high school is the same school. It's like four boys. So the elementary school it was a co-ed. But when I went to high school, it was all boys school. It's actually run by same--same organization that runs the Mary's School in New York. Yeah, and also St. Joseph in, I think it's in Harlingen, I 14:00think, or in Brownsville, same school. So same organization, like the early youth organizations that runs those.

LS: Um, the next question is have you felt the--because of the US's and Philippines, like, complicated relationship, have you felt the US's influence growing up like politically, culturally, socially?

MD: 100%, because you know why? The school is run by [Mary's Brothers?]. And-and then several of them are Americans. So it's really like almost a, it's a--it's almost like an American run school. You know what I mean? So, yep, so our-our everything that we do, reading, textbooks, everything's American when I was there. Well, the books that we read, we read about apples and grapes and so on, and we don't have apples in the Philippines. We do have grapes, but not apples, or strawberries, or cherries, you know stuff like that. We talk about snow, and 15:00we talk about dollar, but you know, our money's not dollar. So it--it was an interesting kind of situation. Yeah. So--and it's also, and then, yeah, it's an American run school.

LS: I see. Are there any examples of, like, activities, or places also?

MD: Like, what do you mean?

LS: Like influenced by the US, like what you did? Like, [MD: Oh we--] what you did for fun or something like that?

MD: Activities that we do? Oh, it's a religious school. So we do a lot of everything religious from--we have the month of the rosary in October, we have the, yes, we have the, we all have all this religious holidays that we have to attend to, you know what I mean? Christmas pageant, stuff like that, competitions like a religion quiz. Yeah. We--those are, most of our, most of our 16:00activities are revolved around the Catholic Church, and the Catholic religion. So because it's a Catholic run school. Yeah. So growing up, it's really that, it all boils around that. Yeah. So--trying to remember actually, even Boy Scouts, we do have, we did have boys camping? Yeah, I do. Remember because I attend those camps. However, they either require the father to--to be there, but I don't have my father, so I can't stay overnight. I would join the morning camp, and then I cannot stay overnight, because I don't have my father with me. So that was, those were the things I kind of feel bad about. Because I truly enjoy like, you know, outdoors and camping and adventures like that. Yeah. Yeah, that 17:00was elementary, right? High school, I joined the military training. So that was fun.

LS: You did military training in high school?

MD: Oh, yeah. I was in the military training in high school, and I graduated as an officer. [laughs]

LS: And so like outside of school, would you say those were the things you did for fun, like camping and outdoor activities?

MD: We can't do that. I mean, seriously, we didn't have money. And, we--okay, so since we are, my family, we really didn't have any money. So we survived by farming. And by--we have a poultry of about, we have about more than, I feel like 20,000 chicken heads, I would say. And we raised chickens, we sell them, we actually wake up early in the morning, and this is true. Even elementary grades, I would, we would wake up about four or three in the morning, we slaughtered 18:00[chicken?] by hand, we slaughter the chicken, we clean them, and then they get sold in the market or whatever. After that, sometimes we have to water the plants that we sell. We have--yeah, because my mom sells orchids, and flowers, and so on. Or sometimes they do catering, and we also have to help. And that was, even when I was a kid, we also have pigs. So we also have to take care of that. And then we have three cows that we have to put in the pasture before we leave for work, before we leave the school, and then we have to come home early because you're--you're dealing with animals right? And farm so they have to be fed, they have to be--you know what I mean? So really, we don't have social life. In high school, even in high school, my only social life was ev-everything related to school. So that's why I joined the military training. That's my respite from like house work. Yeah, yes.

LS: Last question about this section: are there any memories that--from your 19:00time growing up that kind of stand out to you or that you think are important?

MD: I mean, including high school? I would say, or elementary school? [LS: Both, either one.] High School, um, how is it? Actually there's, I would say several, I mean, I just, I just enjoy school, the fact that I--I--I do well and there's, you know, all my friends are there, and I only get to see them when I'm in school. I was in several leadership position when I was in upper grades. Finally, like when I was in junior year in high school, I finally get to join like clubs and organization. Yeah, again, all--all related to religious organization, which is like choir. Like church choir, what else would we join. We have like, called a fraternity but it's all related to religious or Virgin Mary, kind of like fraternity. So we, all we do is pray and have a re-retreat. And those are the things that I enjoy because I get to hang out with my friends that are also from school. You know, and also when we joined the military training, which we do a lot of hiking camps, we stay in school overnight, we do some, like rappel, rappelling, we call a rappelling. I think it's like a rope, where you actually have to crawl between two hills. And then if you fall, you 20:00drop in the water, like running water, river, or something. Yeah, that was fun, I enjoyed those things. Yeah.

LS: All right, moving on to your education portion of the interview. So how did you come to decide to study at the University of the Philippines?

MD: It's my way to--okay, so first, you know, my mom doesn't want me to go to Manila. That's the first thing. Actually, I--I, they wanted me to stay in the small town where I grew up, because I got a scholarship there too. But I told them that I really need to leave. Because my, if I stayed in your sandals, I know that I won't be able to leave and, you know, be myself, succeed in my own way. Because there's a lot of hindrances if I stayed in your status. You know what I mean, I'd be tied to, you know, the family, in terms of what we do, and the culture, and it-it's the culture in the, in the small town is very different from a city, I would say.Plus opportunities, plus connections, and so on. So University of the Philippines is the number one school in the country. So I--I got, when I got a full scholarship, I was so happy because it's very hard to get in to begin with, they only kept like, how many percent? Maybe four or five percent of the people who apply? [LS: Wow.] Yes. And you have to take the test. It's almost like an IQ exam. And then when I got in, plus, they offered me a 21:00scholarship. It's called the presidential scholarship.

So when I got in, I told them, I need to, I need to go to Manila. So my mom said, no, we can't afford to pay for--where are you going to stay? Because we, you know what I mean, because we have to pay for the lodging or housing and so on. So we found, we found my grandaunt, and she agreed to, you know, she agreed to like, you know, she agreed for me to stay with her. And there's like, several other like second cousins and third cousins who live there. It's a big house, but I have to sleep in the garage. You know what I mean? So I said, it's okay, I don't care. I would stay wherever for as long as I can be in Manila. So 22:00that's--Manila is like the other end of General Santos. General Santos is way south. General Santos is actually closer to Malaysia than in Manila, or Indonesia. So it's like really south of the Philippines.

LS: How would, you said earlier that small town culture is different from the big city, like how would you compare, like, your town from, the--Manila?

MD: Oh, Manila is cosmopolitan, very international. General Santos is very, how would they say very local, very paro-parochial. It's similar, you know what I mean, everybody knows everybody. Everybody lives in the same, in a culture of like, you know, go to the market. Everybody knows what to buy that the kind of community? Yes. And also, there's not a lot--oh, we don't have ev-, I didn't even, we didn't even have a television channel. When I was growing up. We listened to radios, radio drama. Can you believe that? You get the like, we didn't get electricity until I was in high school, or late high school. So, that's how backward my small town was. During the time. Yeah. Actually, when I 23:00came back, we, they already have a McDonald's and Starbucks. I was so like, man. Where was grow-growing up. Because I love General Santos and kind of like bea--I never live there again. I mean, well, I did, because I worked for Dole. But Dole was a different place. Yeah. 'Cause Dole is like, it's not far from where I grew up, but it's a different town. It's, it's a small American community, I would say. Yeah.

LS: Um, so did you know that you always wanted to study chemistry? Or, like, what led you to STEM?

MD: Okay, I really wanted to be an airline pilot. Nobody knew--I didn't tell you that? Your class, I didn't tell your class, right? I always wanted to be an airline pilot. I--I actually passed the test. And they--I--I qualified except for the fact that when I, when I was, when I wanted to do it, I weigh 100, sorry 24:00no, about 100 pounds or 90 something pounds. I was underweight, because I told you, like we were not well fed. And we're undernourished because of the fact that you know, growing up we--we didn't have a lot, right. So even like food is--everything's rationed in our family, yeah, growing up and so on. I was actually surprised, I was surprised that I was able to still think and thrive. We were all undernourished, maybe all the vegetables? Meaning, yes, but yes. So I did not qualify. And then the other option is BS math, chemistry, what's the other one, computer science and I wanted to take computer science, but I also 25:00worried that I may not have the resources to pay for computers, laptops, so on. So I said, oh, I'll take chemistry. And I also loved chemistry. Yeah. The other option is I was thinking of going to pre-med, but, well, I can't afford it, so. Yeah.

LS: And so you said that you also did a dual degree in--between math and chemistry? Did you decide math later, or?

MD: Yes. Math was more of secondary. I also enjoyed math. Yeah. That's why I became a math, math major and chemistry major. Yeah, but it's really more on chem. It just so happened that I need about two or three more credits to get a degree in math, and I said, okay, let me just take it. Yeah. So.

LS: Um, so also back then, did you know that you wanted to be a teacher?

MD: No, that--that was like, my, one of my last priorities, I would say. [Both 26:00laugh] Because maybe it wasn't, because if you're in the Philippines, teachers are respected, but they're--they're underpaid. You know what I mean. So--unlike in Singapore, or in Hong Kong, maybe, or in Taiwan, or Korea, where teachers are really paid well, in the Philippines, they're not paid well. Yeah. So however, I got the opportunity to work at the refugee camp. And that actually made me truly like, you know, love the profession. I fell in love with teaching when I was working at the refugee camp. Yeah, yeah.

LS: So thinking back to your time as an undergrad, is there a defining moment for you that you think strongly impacted your career decision? Or?

MD: Yeah, I would think so. I mean, think about like, coming from a small town. You know, you--very insecure, very small, I mean, like me being underweight. So, so thin, and like, you know, fresh from the province, I would say. They call it FOB, fresh, fresh off boat, or fresh--you know what I mean? You go into a big city from a small town. And also my classmates come from my private schools in 27:00Manila, which is more cosmopolitan. They're more fluent in English than I am, because my teachers, we learn English in school, but I mean, they're not that fluent. I would say, you know what I mean, of course, I, I have a very strong math and science background, but not the languages. So you feel kind of insecure, being in a, being in a classroom full of like, bright, talented, and, you know, brilliant students around me. You know what I mean, because University of the Philippines is one of the hardest school to get in. But at the same time, everybody who got, who gets there are scholars. They're all brilliant. They're smart. However, when I was there, I kind of realized that, well, I'm actually, I can compete with anybody, except in languages, because they're more, they're 28:00more advanced in languages than I am. Even in my Spanish class, my classmates who speaks Spanish fluently, and I'm, you know, barely learning the language. Yeah. In my English class there--I do remember my first English class at--at the University of the Philippines. Everybody was exempted into final exam except me. And that was so, that was, that was--I--I took it as an insult, but at the same time as a challenge. [LS: That's good.] Yeah, I told myself like, man, this is, this is tough to do something. But at the same time, though, on the other hand, I'm also tutoring my classmates in chemistry, or in mathematics. So, you know what I mean, that's how I earn some money in college is by tutoring other people on something that they can't do. So I was thinking, like, maybe I'm bad in one thing, but at least I'm good at other things. So that gave me confidence.

LS: Yeah, that's good. Alright. So we're gonna move on to the time when you started working at the refugee camp, but right before that, is there any time--is there like a time between when you finish college and before you started working and what happened in that?

MD: You know, that's a funny story. Because actually, I was thinking, like, I'm about to graduate. And I need to find a job right away. Because I--remember I told you where I stayed in college. I stayed with my grandaunt, and I was--I actually practically like sleeping in the garage, or sometimes in the kitchen, 29:00or sometimes in the living room, wherever. Again, there's a cot, and that's all I had. And my cousin--nobody in that house actually goes to school. Like my cousin who were there, he's a dropout and so on. It's like, it's a hell house. I would say. I mean, I--I appreciate my grantaunt for allowing me to stay there. It's a big house. I know that she, she's really, she's--she's wealthy, but at the same time, a lot of people are--people have helped them. But the people she's helping are not helping themselves. So they spend gambling the whole day, they drink and so on. My cousin that would wake me up at two in the morning and ask me to buy stuff for him, despite the fact that I have school the next day, so I really want to get out of the house. You know what I mean? So when, so when I found out--when I, when I found out that I'm actually about to graduate, and I started looking for a job. And lo and behold, so I applied like about three or four weeks before my last day of school, I got hired right away. And the opening 30:00was a refugee camp. I actually applied to be, to work at McDonald's. I applied to work at Jollibee, which is like the fast food restaurant, stuff like that anywhere for as long as I can get something. And I saw an opening. And it's with the United Nations. And I saw, let me try this, because they're looking for any college graduate. So I did apply, and I got hired, and they said, you will start on this day. And I said, oh, yeah, that's like, the day after my last day of school. [LS: Oh, wow!] Oh, yes, so.

LS: So basically no time at all.

MD: No time at all. Yeah, no break. I'm--I'm so happy, actually. I was very happy that I got a job that is, like, the next day after my last day of school. Yes. So we, yeah, we went to--it's like, somewhere in the mountains actually, like somewhere in Bataan? Like, about, about four hours from Manila? Yeah, it's 31:00next to their US base.

LS: So it's relatively close, yeah.

MD: Yeah. So it's like the campus like next, just outside the US base in the Philippines.

LS: Mhm, I see. So what was everyday life like, just teaching in the camp? And, like, could you just describe a typical day?

MD: Oh, so imagine that I was there, I--I was so young, I'd have no idea what I'm doing there. Even my friends who actually remember me being there, they say, like, we thought you were just like a kid that, you know, walking around a camp or something. But anyway, so yeah, they gave us training for about two weeks. We actually immerse into the Vietnamese culture, Vietnamese, or I don't think it's Vietnamese, it's the Indo- Chinese culture, which includes the Lao and the Khmer--Khmer, which is Cambodian. So we live in--in their village . So we see how their lives, life is like, we get to know their, why they're in, why--why they're refugees, and so on. So from there on, they taught us, like, skills on how to help them, or teach them, or reach out to them.


Yeah, so we teach half a day, the other half of the day spent on planning or training, compared to Dole, or compared to our school at PVA, where I teach from 7:50 to 4:00, or 3:30, you know what I mean? In the camp, we teach from like, 7:30 to about 11:30, I think, or 12:00. [LS: Wow.] In the afternoon, I'll be grading or planning or something. And we sometimes do that at the beach, because the camp is not far from the beach. Like haul and take our stuff at a beach and plan there, you know what I mean? Or if you are teaching in the afternoon, then in the morning, you can, like, you know, prepare everything, and then in the afternoon you teach. Yeah, it was a, it was, how would I say, it was a very 33:00rewarding experience, I would say, because I learned a lot about reaching out to kids, about cu--you know what I mean, understanding cultures before you actually, you know, design any instructional agenda. You know what I mean. Understanding your students. What else did I learn there? Yeah, just being, being thoughtful about everything that you do in the classroom, to be able to reach out to your kids, or to your students. Yeah, that's something that I--I learned from that camp, from the refugee camp.

LS: When you say the cult--like, being aware of people's cultures. Like how did--can you be more specific about, like, how that played into your teaching?


MD: Think about--okay, so, think about some of my students. I have students who are Amerasians. You know what Amerasians are? [LS: Mhm.] These are--yeah, so these are their children. A lot of them are, have similar background that I ha--do, I did have, when they have their moms, they don't know who their father is or haven't met their father. But unlike me, at least I went to school, and I wasn't ostracized completely by the society, make sense? But these--these kids are ostracized by the Vietnamese community during the time because Vietnam during the time was a strict Marxist government. They're very commonuni--they're, they--they come from a communist government that actually discriminates any-anybody with a relationship with the United States, after the 35:00war, during the war, and so on. So including the Amerasians. So they weren't given any opportunity, a lot of them are street kids. So some of them are like 16, 17 years old, non-literate. And we have to teach them how to read, how to write, how to count, stuff like that. But they have a lot of trauma behind them, you know what I mean, or they carrying, they have the trauma that they carry with them. So I have to handle the trauma, the psychology of the kids, and at the same time, making sure that before they leave my classroom--because I only have them for six months, and then they migrate to United States, or some of them actually go to France, or some of them go to Norway, wherever they're heading, but majority are in the United States. So in that small amount of time that they're with me, I have to make sure that they're successful and get like the basic skill for them to be able to survive in United States.

So with that in mind, I would have to be very specific about what skills do they really need. So I work with my, with the, with the social worker, I work with [unintelligible], and we kind of identify the cer-- skills that they need to have. Yeah, so it's, it's very tough. At the same time, also, I were thoughtful of like, you know, what do they know? What were their experience? For example, I know for a fact that my kids in the refugee camp--so a lot of them are intelligent, except that they just don't have the basic skills when they coming 36:00to me. You know what I mean, I have kids who are, who know how to count money, but they don't understand how to, what money is, or are there--or what do you mean by when you say, one, one and two and three. When you write it down, they won't understand what it is, but if you show them money, they know what it is. You know what I mean, so, it--it--it's tough. But they're, but at the same time, though, working with them made me realize about, you know, made me think about, you know, how important hope is in life, because a lot of them, despite the fact that they've been through a lot, they're still hopeful. And that's for me, is something that I would never forget, you know, there's always hope in every situation.

LS: Kind of based on that, like, are there any students or classes that you remember that stand out in your mind as like--

MD: Oh, a lot. All of them actually. I have, I have kids--in fact, I'll show you some pictures. I--I mean, I actually I think I still have those pictures where, during graduation, when they leave my class, they would cry. And they would, I mean, it--it--it's just an amazing experience. I can give you one funny, funny example. When we were there, my first year teaching experience, right? So I was teaching math. But I also have friends who are teaching American Studies. So we work together as a community, as a, as a group of teacher, we don't teach in isolation, you know what I mean? Even if I teach math, or I teach science, and then they teach social studies, or--we tried to work together. And one of the 37:00thing we tried to help them is--the-these are teens, right? They're about four--I don't know, maybe 13 to 18 years old, in that group. And they have no idea what American culture is, because when they move to, when they left Viet-Vietnam, or Cambodia, or Laos, they really have no vision of how everything is in the US.

So what we did was we look into like the current trends in fashion in the United States. And we borrowed some clothes, and we made them do a fashion show. It was funny, it was like, we have to look for shoes, we have to look for like the appropriate outfit. And I don't have any because I--I mean, I don't have any clothes. That was my first job, so I don't have tons of clothes. We--we tried 38:00to, like, look for whatever we can come out with, and we did a fashion show. And for--for--for the students, they felt so different during the time. I mean, the--the joy that they have and the confidence and, you know, what they come up with being in that fashion show was so different. There was, there was--when I was teaching American Studies, which is funny, because I've never been to United States then, but you know, being taught by Americans and reading all Americans' book, American books, so they made me teach American Studies. So I did a study about, I did, I did the kids that do a roleplay about American history. And come to think of it now, it's full of flaws. And it was asking them to do their role play. Talking to [Samantha] Manchac and realize, like, oh my god, Manchac, so uh--now, yeah the role, the--the play that I did with my kids, they're full of 39:00like, you know, prejudice and bias. That was, like, it was funny.

LS: That's sweet, though. The fashion show's a really sweet idea.

MD: You--you--you--I'll show you the pictures. It-it is--one of those, I mean, moments that I can't forget with my students. Yes. And then when they, they're--they're so sweet, like, when they graduate, they have, they always have parties, they invited, they--they'll invite you to their house. Just to show that they're grateful, and so on. It was--and I know for a fact that it's difficult for them, because they have nothing also. They even have--you know what I mean, think about it. They're refugees, they have no work, they have no money, and so on. All they have are rations from the United Nations. And whatever they have, they make the best out of it. Yeah, so it-it's, it's different. That's why I--I, from then on, I really told myself, like, this is, if education is like this, that teaching's like this, then I would love to have this job. Because you know for a fact that you're not just only making a difference in somebody's life, but, you know what I mean, you're part of somebody's life. You know. [LS: That's really cool, yeah.] We actually, uh, how 40:00many years ago was that--oh, that was before, before Ms. [Nicole] DiLuglio and I went to Singapore. I think you were a sophomore then. I was, I think I had a problem with my sinus infection and so on, and I went to see a doctor. And I found a doctor somewhere close to where I live here. I live somewhere in Cyfair. And that doctor was from the camp, the refugee camp. [LS: Oh, wow!] Yes, he did there. Yeah. He used to be a student there. One of my friends actually was his teacher. And, yeah, now he's a doctor. Actually I have several kids, student, former students who are now doctors too, and they're, they--they're doing well in the United States. [LS: That's really nice.]

So think about this, some of them escaped by boat, right? I mentioned that to your class. Yeah, they escaped by boat. And they, oh, that was, that was sad the way--they escaped by boat, and they got stranded in the ocean. So, just had some of their siblings die, you know. Some of them resorted to cannibalism. Some of 41:00them actually escaped through the route of Cam--Laos, then the mountains, or Cambodia, and then the mountains going to Thailand. And then when they get to Thailand, they get--it--it, because they have to go through, like, landmines, some of them lose their limbs. There're even some of them who get kidnapped for prostitution in Thailand. It's--it's--it's, uh, it's a situation there's really like, so... to fathom. That's why I don't understand it when people say that, you know, they don't support refugees, or they thought people just want to escape their country for the sake of, you know what I mean, going to the United States. They don't realize that they have to go through a lot, to--and there 42:00must be something that's really happening to them for them to make a decision to leave their country.

LS: Yeah, that's a really, that's really interesting stories. Yeah.

MD: I think that's the best job experience I've ever had. Yeah, unfortunately, the camp has closed though. So, yeah, I was only there for two and a half years.

LS: Is there a name for the camp?

MD: Yeah, it's United--sorry, it's a United Nations refugee program. It's in Bataan. So it's, it's--actually the name of the camp is PRPC. Philippine Refugee, PR. Okay, Philippine Refugee Processing Center. It's Philippine Refugee 43:00Processing Center. I actually went back to the site of the camp. Now it's a, there's a part there, and the rest are for--taken over by the forest. So the camp kind of like disappeared, which is sad, and even the house where we used to live, it's gone, so. Because it's in the mountains.

LS: Yeah. Moving on from that job, you went to teach at the Dole Philippines School?

MD: Oh, yes. Yeah.

LS: How did you come to teach there?

MD: Oh, well, I mean, I, so--I don't know why even why I left the camp, but again at the same time, I was looking for more challenge, I would say. And better pay, that's another one I'm looking for. Or maybe because, like, I was, I 44:00really don't--that time I was thinking, like, I want to go back to perhaps the lab, and go working for Dole allows me to do that too, you know what I mean, because Dole is a, yeah, food company, and I can teach, and I can the same time do something for the lab. And, yeah, the pay was a lot better. We stayed in a camp that is--or sorry, Dole has a housing, housing by the⁠-- . The place is beautiful, I would say. The kids are all expats. This, our students are children of the executives of the company. So they're like Australians, and New Zealanders, or Japanese or Americans or Filipinos, but they're all like the top notch. Like Vice President, you know what I mean, or super-superintendents stuff like that, general manager. Their kids go through that school. And it's by the foot of an, an excellent volcano, it's really beautiful. It's a golf course area, housing by the golf course, pine trees. It's, it's nice. It's an enclosed community, and it's, they have guards everywhere, and they--they paid for our vacations to Manila regularly, you know what I mean, they fly us for free. Yeah, they--it was, it was a nice experience, I would say. And I was kind of like enticed by that, you know? But at the same time, yeah, so I also, I--I, we go to the lab, and get to see that, and work in the lab, which is fun. It was fun at the same time and small classroom size. However, that's where I--I actually got to teach like third graders and fourth graders, and then 12th graders at the same time. So yeah, it was crazy. Like, in the morning, I would teach, like, third graders, and then in the afternoon, I would teach pre-cal, or chemistry or physics. It was, it was crazy, but I only have few kids, like maybe twelve kids in a class, or, you know what I mean, the largest class I had is 24, I would 45:00say. So.

LS: So what work did you do with Dole on the side?

MD: Um, okay, so I teach, I design, whatever curriculum, but I also, I get to work in the lab with my friends, because they do analytical chemistry. So I can do that side too, in a certain way. So they do research and help them with their research, and I get paid extra.

LS: Like, what was the focus of the research?

MD: Sorry?

LS: What was the focus of the research?

MD: Oh, so some of them are on soil analysis, because what happens is anything that--okay, so they do pine-pineapples, right? And they also do have a banana company, or banana plantation in the area, or in the region. So the--they, since they put a lot of fertilizer on the soil, the soil gets acidic, and it loses a lot of organic matter. So they do a lot of testing on the soil to make sure that it has enough nutrients for the, for the pineapple to actually thrive. That's 46:00one. The other one is water analysis, to make sure that there's not a lot of contamination or pesticides leaching into the groundwater. That's one. The third one that I really love is when they come out with the fruit cups. You know, the fruit cups that they're selling right now, I mentioned that to your class, right? [LS: Yeah, you did.] Yes. Okay. So yeah, so it's a, it's a complicated process, but we all--I only need one part of that job, which is like I help a friend with the sugar measurements and bricks, yeah. But the rest is like they do the testing for food. So I saw like the whole process of how you come out with a new product. So from like blind testing--which I did, by the way, at Texas A&M, for one of my research, we actually did a blind testing, I told the m that, yeah, you do the blind testing, because how they, that's how they did it 47:00with Dole products. But we did it in Japan, and they not, they didn't do it in Philippines. They did, like, in the Target market. So you have the right sugar content and the right taste, before you actually come up with a final product. But it's like finding the right combination of fruits, gelatin, and sugar, and acidity. And then also, every country that I found out is like, for example, Korea would--would--would have a different taste from Japan. And then when they offered the--the product to Saudi Arabia, they wanted even a lot sweeter than the one in Japan, Japan is more sour and less sugar.

LS: Oh that's interesting. I haven't thought about that before. It's, like, every culture has their own tastes.

MD: Oh, yes. Like same thing with soda, right? Coca Cola? If you go to Mexico, Coca Cola tastes differently from, like, the United States. And that's exactly 48:00what you've said. If you are in food chemistry, that's something that you need to start thinking about. And the best thing about working for Dole--and the other thing that I, I, which I think my advantage over other teachers that I know, is the fact that Dole is a corporate school, meaning we think like corporate workers. We think about like bottom line, we think about accountability, we think about, like, how do we minimize costs, in terms of what we do, and produce, and produce--produce a greater, a better product? You know, see what I mean? Even in the way we teach, the way we handle resources is very different. Yeah. Yeah. And also we--we see, like, the advantages of like, a lot of our kids. So actually, when I was working at Dole, that's when I actually had students who competed for the, and this is the coolest thing, we were in the nationals for like Chemistry Olympiad, Physics Olympiad, Math Olympiad. My students that I coach, we were competing with the top kids in the whole country. Yeah. And some of them actually won. And they would go to international, and it was, it was an amazing experience. We had the brightest kids. Actually I 49:00have--I told you, some of my students are now professors. They're a coup--they're several who are now working in, you know, in the US. Yeah, and they're earning more than I do, of course. Physicist, chemists, doctors. But again, their parents are all executives too. So, like, what do you expect, right?

LS: It seems like that refugee experience was very inspiring for you, like towards your later teaching career. Was the--are there things that you also learned from your experience teaching at Dole?

MD: Other than the fact that I--I became more serious about teaching when I was there, because in the camp, like, what we do is more fun, more--more play, 50:00actually, when every time I go to a classroom when I was in the refugee camp, I think of my job as a really fun, something you like, you know? I work with kids, I make them--I teach them how to read and enjoy. We do a lot of roleplay realia, because a lot of them have--are level one English, which means that they come to class, they don't even understand a word that I'm saying, but by the end of six months, at least they can survive, they can communicate, they can, you know what I mean? So it's really, I had to break down everything to like the basics. And maybe that's also the reason why I decided to leave the camp is because of the fact that I wanted to do something more challenging related to chemistry, related to science, which I cannot do if I was in the refugee camp. You know what I mean, and that's why I start, when I moved to Dole, I--I was more ser-- 51:00I--I became a more serious scientist, or a more seri-serious, like, you know, chemist and mathematician.

LS: I see. Okay, so what brought you to the US?

MD: Oh, I forgot actually, I went to grad school. [LS: Oh, yes.] So from Dole, I went to grad school. So I did a study on environmental--since working at Dole, I really know how--how contaminated water systems are. So I did another [unintelligible] studies of waters, and did sampling, and, you know what I mean, that was my--and that's why I, that's why I really wanted to teach your class about analytical techniques. I do remember my grad school. It was funny, I was doing all those Beer's law. Do you remember the Beer's law lab? [LS: Yes.] Yeah, we did Beer's law in actually grad school. I didn't--yeah, so we did Beer's law. We did a little bit of organic--I did a lot of organic chem, synthesis of products. Yeah. Oh, my god, there's so many things. I even told your class about the rhinoceros beetles, collect it, put in a blender and then killed it, and then take out the protein from it. That was so bad, okay. Like live rhinoceros beetles. We have to collect them at night. And then we put them in the blender the next day. And then we would have all that--that was so sad, I feel bad for the beetles. Yes, we collected samples. underwater, that was so fun, like, you know what I mean? So that was my grad school. And then uh--[LS: Where did you go?] Say again?

LS: Where's the name--what was the name of your graduate school?

MD: It's in Mindanao. It's called Iligan Insti-Institute of Technology. Yeah, 52:00it's under, it's actually funded by--which is interesting. If you know, Philippines is, like Mindanao area is, a lot of them are a little bit Islamic. Because during the Spanish times, Mindanao remained to be an Islamic country or Islamic State, because of the influence of the Middle East, Middle Easterners. So they did provided supp-support, they--they provided support for those universities there. So they have a lot of facilities. Yeah, so their chemistry program is very strong. And my professors are from Illinois, or UCLA, or--so they-they're really good. Um, so that's why I decided to just take my Master's there. But when I was there, I saw an opening for teaching in United States. And I've been wanting to really go to the United States, because I'm, I'm thinking that if I stay in the Philippines, there's a lot of political unrest. And--oh, I didn't tell you by the way, when I was in college, we were actually rallying against the Marcos's. We protested. Yes, we went to the streets to kick out the--the government, and, yeah, and were hoping that the country would change, but they did not. [LS: When was this?] That was in 1985, when the Marcos's were 53:00actually kicked out of the country. And there was a, they cheated on the election, of course, and then the Cory Aquino, she was the first woman president in the Philippines, her husband was killed by the Marcos's. So she won the election, and then the other one said, oh yeah, she cheated. And she doesn't want to--he doesn't want to leave in power. But they've been in power for decades. They've stolen a lot of time, the Marcos's stolen a lot of our country, and then, so the university where I am, being the bastion of I would say, intellectuals in the country, we actually protested and protest that we are--like a lot of the action started at big universities, student leaders and so on. And we were one of those, we would go in streets, we got hosed, we got tear gassed and so on. But we never gave up. And that was a time I was still in 54:00school. So we would go after school, to fight, and so on. But anyway, so I was hoping the country would change, but it did not, it got more corrupt, and--so I said, maybe I should leave the country and--and go somewhere else and see what I can do, and see if I, you know what I mean, make a difference and do something for myself too. I mean, yeah.

LS: Did you say you played a part in leading the, some of the protests at your school?

MD: I was more of a follower. [laughs] I go with my friends wherever they go. But I--I truly believe in the, in the cause, though. And I'm very passionate about the cause also, but I was not a leader. There are other people who actually lead the group. I wish I was the leader. But I still haven't found my voice. You know what I mean, because you--I didn't find my voice, I think, until I--I was at the refugee camp, I would say. Yeah, because when I was at a refugee, I--think about it, I was only, I was very young, and I got promoted in the job within a year. And then I, and the other people who applied for the job were way, way older than me, like ten, twenty years older, and they didn't get 55:00the job, and they got mad at me. And I said, I have no idea why I got the job. No, I mean, it's a, it's a--so from--from being a teacher, that's level one, there's a another job, push a little bit higher, and I got the job. Yeah, so, yeah, there was that gave me like a lot of confidence, I would say. Yeah. So.

LS: So was that like, right after your graduate school that you were, you went to the US?

MD: Yes. In fact, same thing like happened to me undergrad, I left the next day. [laughs] Again, actually, I was in grad school, I was already working on my papers to go to United States. So it's a difficult process to get the United 56:00States from the Philippines. You know, it's it's very intensive, a lot of medical tests. We have to get the criminal certification. And that's exactly how I saw how corrupt the Philippine government is. Yeah, for example, for my, my criminal clearance, they asked me to pay them money. Otherwise, they said they will not release it. It's kind of like you know what I mean , bribes, hands on, that you have to pay. It's ridiculous. That's why I said, like, you know, this is the reason why I want to leave the country. And I can't, I can't, I--I don't want to be part of a society that is so corrupt.

LS: So what year was that when you immigrated to the US?


MD: 2000. Like, I came in the US in July 1 , 2000. Yeah, so...

LS: And what was the first job?

MD: Teaching at Fonville Middle School. That's when I had Jennifer Medrano, that student I was telling you. She even showed me pictures, actually showing a picture of where, who she was. I said, oh, I do remember that picture, because I brought you to a science fair when you were in the middle school. I mean, I made them. I mean, think about it, like it's the--Fonville, if you know, Fonville in--in Houston, it's like northside, Title I , they, but I made--all my students are here to do the science fair project. And they went to compete in the city 58:00when I was there. And it was the first and last time it happened. Yeah. So a little sad, they don't do that anymore.

LS: So when you first arrived here, even though like you've had a lot of international experience and like, influence in the US, were there any, still were there any, like cultural shocks, or?

MD: Oh, yes. Definitely. Okay. Let me describe to you the experience of a person who comes from a different country who's--who's second language is English, right? Coming United States. Everyday you have a headache? Think about it. I'm not joking. It's really, you could ask, I mean, if your parents came here and migrated here, right? Think about like in the United States, everybody, 59:00everything that you do has to be in the English language. But Eng--if English is not your first language, so you have to like, in your brain, you have to force it to translate everything in English. Right? And you don't become fluent until maybe after, a year after. Or even more than that, I would say, right? And then you would only know, and I, and this is very true, I read somewhere, that you only know that you're starting to to acclimatize on the culture and language is if you start, like, dreaming in the language that you're in. [LS laughs] It's true. People never think of that, but it's actually true. I mean, it's like, whenever my first year here, I had a lot of headache. I mean every time I drive home, my head hurts. And not only that, like, adjusting to the culture--our banking system is different. You know what I mean, the way we--even McDonald's is different. I--I--I'm telling you, I came here with other Filipinos who were also hired as teachers, in Houston ISD, when I first came here, there's actually about forty plus of us hired to teach only in Houston ISD, because they cannot 60:00find math, science teachers in the district. There's a shortage in the city of Houston for science and math teachers. Think about that. The question is why, right? Yes. Anyway, so when they hired us, so we have to open a bank account. We don't know how to do that, apply a DPS. We don't know how to do that. We don't have cars, right? When I came here in this country, I only have a suitcase of clothes, and $500 in my account. And I have no friends, I don't know anybody, I don't have family here. So all I have is guts, right, and my $500, and a job waiting for me. And they didn't pay me until sometime in October, or last week of September. So I was here in July, I have to budget that $500 from July to October. [LS: Oh my god, yeah.] Yes. And I have to pay my rent, first month's rent, and so on.

I actually work and waited tables while before the school start. [LS: Wait yeah, you did? Where?] One of the clubs. I lasted for one night because I don't know what to do. I had no idea, like the, like the culture is so different. I gave up after one night. Yeah, I found something else. I mean, yeah, I did, I did help some friends, and, you know what I mean? But it was, it was diff--it was very difficult. I mean, even McDonald's, when you are new here, I have friends, Filipino friends who were with us, they went to McDonald's, and they were looking for rice. Because in the Philippines, McDonald's sells rice. Yes. That's to tell you the difference, the cultural shock that we all had, when we were here, you know what I mean? And everybody went, has to go to the Asian market together just to feel, feel good about, you know, like--because everybody's 61:00afraid of like what, you know, that we might make mistakes when we are in public. So I took the bus to go to Fonville one time, and it took me one, almost two hours to get from where I live to Fonville, riding Houston bus. 'Cause I live, like, west side of Houston, then I have to take the bus to Downtown. Then from Downtown, I have to take the bus to East Little York, which is like north of Houston. It's more than like I-45, north. [LS: A long ways, yeah.] Yes.

LS: Do you think that having the US's influence in the Philippines, like growing up with that, did that hinder or help you in coming to the US?

MD: Is the--okay I was, actually, I--I just told my friend, several of my 62:00friends here recently, like, you know, growing up and when I was in the Philippines, I still do remember, like how we look up to United States as a strong country, as a powerful nation, as a nation of like hope, and so on. You know what I mean, like--however, when you get to United States, you see a different perspective of how the United States really is like, you know. But at the same time, no regrets. The fact that, you know, I had a lot of experience growing up, and having like a certain picture of the United--certain picture of United States actually allowed me to be, how do I say, cultured in the country? You know what I mean, although I did a lot of--I had a lot of pitfalls, where totally like, learn the culture. Lots of mistakes. But it was okay. Yeah. My 63:00first year in, at Fonville, I had a coworker, she--this is the weirdest thing, so we inter--I mean, actually, my coworker. Okay, so we interviewed her for the job. Sometime like about May, before the end of the school year, for a position for the following school year, right? So May, we interviewed her, we accepted her. We said, oh, yeah, we will welcome, we'd love you to have you here in the school. And when we, when she came to report for work in August, right, so there was like, a few months after, I really thought she was pregnant. And I congratulated her. Turned out I was wrong. So that was like a big oops--because in the Philippines, we celebrate, you know, people are pregnant and so on. That was the biggest mistake. The next day, she showed up for lunch, and she had like 64:00a diet tea. And so I'm like, my friends from work were like, "Marlo, what did you do?"

LS: Has the way that--like you say that you have to, like, adjust a lot, like how has that changed, like while you first got here, and then, like, up until now?

MD: Oh, I would say I'm still learning about like the idiomatic expressions, the memes and so on . But again, United States, our culture, in the United States culture is very dynamic, right? Even I think your parents are, even--even like, you know--a lot of things change, like, especially with adolescence, right, with teenagers, like, teenagers in the past, like, even in my twenty years of teaching, the meme s change, the classroom culture changes. You know what I mean? Pop culture, especially, is something that you can never catch up. I mean, it's always, it's very dynamic, it--it changes almost every five years. You know what I mean, so what's--what's in this--this next five years, will be very 65:00different from, like, what's popular the next five years. Yeah. Yeah. Well, they said, they were saying like, that's so 90s, or that's so 80's.

LS: Do you think that you've faced any discrimination or feel that your prejudiced when--while first being here?

MD: Well, I, again, there are--I--I mean, there's some, there's some, there's some, definitely some discrimination along the way. And some of them I ignore, like, I still move on with my life. Some of them are very blatant. I do remember I have an educator, mentor, my first year teaching in the US. And that mentor told me about, you know, certain groups of students United States can never 66:00learn, no matter what you do. I do remember that's the first thing she told me, and I--I prove her wrong. Yes, I prove her wrong. I told her that I don't believe that. I mean, I believe in every student's got capacity to learn and be better. Just provide them the opportunity and hope and encourage them. Yeah, so, but I still see that she sees races. And, yeah, but there are some I would say, even among administrators, they tend to, you know, put you on the site, especially Asians, right? Us, Asians, we tend to be very--they think of us being subservient. They--they--they think of our quietness and politeness to be, how 67:00would I say it, to be easily manipulated. You k onw what I mean, they don't realize that we are very thoughtful, we fight our ba--we fight, we fight, when we fight our battles, we want to make sure that we're gonna win. And that's exactly what we do. And we know how to work our way to get what we want, in the way that Americans do it. Yes, so--exactly. And I've seen that a lot in--in a lot of institutions I've worked with, you know what I mean, they--they always underestimate Asians. Yeah.

LS: Do you still--did you still stay in contact with your family when you came to here?

MD: Oh, yeah, I did. I did. Which is actually, you know, what happens in Asia, 68:00in--in Asians working in the US, Right? You end up being their, how do I say it, the money earner for the whole family? Yes. In my case, I have to support my mom until she died. Yeah. And now I'm supporting some of my siblings, especially because it's COVID. And they lost their jobs. I've sent them money. Yeah. Yeah. That's part of our culture, I guess, you know, we take care of our family.

LS: Um, kind of going back to just focusing on, like, your career in HISD. So can you kind of outline, like--you have, you worked in a lot of schools. Can you kind of outline where you did it? Like how you came to teach at each place? And what did you do, and why did you leave?

MD: Why did I leave? Okay. So Fonville, Fonville was the first job, I was there for first two years. And I really, I mean, that's middle school, right? And I do enjoy working with those kids. In fact, I--I would say that, you know, even the principal loves me there, and I--I did great. I mean, I have a great success in encouraging the kids to believe in themselves, you know what I mean, and to love sciences. We do a lot of hands on activities at Fonville, which is pretty amazing for, you know, for that school. We build--we had a garden that they actually explored, it was fun. From there, then--then I went to a Christmas dinner, I do remember now, so I went to a Christmas dinner, and I met a lot of 69:00teachers from the magnet school for engineering. I was there, I was still at Fonville. And they asked me like, they told me like, hey, we have an opening next year, why won't you join us? And it started from that. And I said, okay, sure, why not.

And then from Fonville, I got recruited to move to Booker T. Washington. And that's where I was started teaching, I said, like, oh, I like this, which now I'm teaching high school. So--but however they assigned, they asked me to teach the engineering program, freshmen engineering program, and I have to design the curriculum from scratch. It was, it was, it was, like, no curriculum. So I--I made it in [unintelligible] but IPC Rube Goldberg project engineering design. You know what I mean, so we actually, we did a lot of, we did a productions--I've set up production, production design competition, when they actually have to make a chocolate factory. So they have to actually come up with a chocolate product, but they have to think of like, how much would it cost, shipping, all that, manufacturing, thinking about, like, all the economics behind producing, like, you know, chocolate bar, or one chocolate product. That was like from scratch? Yeah. So we did--what else did we do? Oh, the egg drop. But we made it economical and engineering design competition. So we need a lot of like, you know, the MIT engineering design competition, I got involved with 70:00robotics. And the best thing about robotics, though, is the fact that we travel, we build a robot , but it's FIRST robotics. And I learned a lot about you know, I, that's where I got to meet a lot of people to other--other engineering features. It was fun, we didn't win a lot of times, we get to Atlanta, Georgia, we get to University of Michigan. Yeah, for competition, Oklahoma. So we--we go from like city to city to compete. It was amazing. It was a really amazing experience.

Then I got into the Rice program from--oh, so from Booker T., so I was doing that, then I got a scholarship to be with a Rice--Rice laboratory program for 71:00one year. So I'll be teaching only one class. But I will be learning about teaching, being thoughtful about my process, understanding the student, you know what I mean, culture, and finding ways to be able to teach them thoughtfully, which is very similar to the refugee camp. So I'll be teaching only one class. And that was at Lee High School, which is now Wisdom High School. So what they did was they gave me a class of kids who were, who either failed IPC, they're in their senior year, and they haven't passed IPC, meaning they failed, like twice, or some of them failed once, the class, and they're all, they all--all hate sciences, because of the fact that they fail the class, and they're upper level, 72:00and they just want to graduate. But they also are like, you know, discipline issues. And you know what I mean? And we have to make them love the classes, and science, and so on, and understand the value of why they're learning. And we were successful at that, I was so happy. It was like my, and yeah, there was, so there was a program with Rice University. So we learned about teaching, we learned about the grade-based research, and all that with Rice professors, and neurobi-neurobiology. And that was for one year. And when I, while I was in the program, I got to observe the class at KIPP, KIPP Houston. And they were starting a high school, and they invited me if I wanna join the program and help them build the school. So that's when I got transferred again, to KIPP. See, so it's like, you know, the process is all like, somebody would you know, you meet, and then they ask you to join.

LS: Yeah.

MD: So yeah, so that's why I got to help start the KIPP program, and KIPP Houston High School, and it was an amazing experience. We created a school--by the way that--that Lee High School program, it was amazing. I, i-it's a small 73:00class, a lot of them are discipline issues , but we never had, we never had a discipline issue at school. They were always excited. They--they converse, and we learned about science, we learned about the value why we're learning things, which is amazing, you know what I mean, and they came out different from when they first came in. That's where actually I had a student who showed up in my open house. She had a baby. And she was, she has, she's actually feeding her baby with soda, like in a, you know, in a bottle, instead of milk it was soda, like I have to have, I have to have a conversation with her about that, nutrition and so on. And she appreciates it. You know what I mean? A lot of them are migrants too, like maybe some of them are undocumented. Yeah, in that class. And then we talk about like, you know, why it's important for us to value 74:00education. So I think that's important. I think in this--one thing missing, I think in, in education, that's the conversation piece of like, the importance of why we're doing what we're doing. Yeah. So, KIPP the same way. It's a group of also, like, mostly Hispanics, a lot of African Americans. And we--I do remember, I don't know if you remember Ms. [Nicole] DiLuglio, Ms. DiLuglio and I actually created the STEM program, a very strong STEM program at KIPP. And we made them compete--[LS: You did it together?] Yes, we competed, we made them. We created a program, she teaches AP Bio, I teach AP Chem. Our kids all do science--science projects. We--they did compete, we got kids to MIT, we have kids who actually 75:00competed in Silicon Valley and so on. It was, it was a, it was a fun program. A lot of work, extended day, even on Saturdays and Sundays sometimes I have to work, and, you know what I mean, work with kids doing research. But it was, it was very rewarding. After seven years, I said I can't do this anymore. Yes.

LS: Could you elaborate a little bit more on what you mean, like, what factors you had to consider when you, like, were creating a curriculum?

MD: Were creating what, sorry? [LS: Creating a curriculum, like at KIPP.] Oh, okay, so here's the thing, when--when we decided on--so it's like, number one, TEA, the TEA, this--this would actually require you to have like, you know, first year chemistry, first year science, biology--biology, chemistry, physics, and then you can add other sciences to it. So what we did at KIPP is we had, we had biology, we had chemistry, we had physics, then we decided, like, what AP courses can the kids take, if they want to go to engineering, or pre-med, or, you know what I mean? Or something that would enhance their skills. So we offered a class called Bio-engineering and World Health. And these are for kids 76:00who are not going to, who decided that they're not going to go into engineering, or sciences or STEM, but they need to have e-enough skills to be able to actually survive the 21st century and understand, you know, the issues with concerning their health, issues concerning about related to health and poverty, you know what I mean, how those two are related, deciding on, like, what medications there are, you know, preconditions, pre-existing conditions. Also, like, how you're--the place where you live in and how your lifestyle can affect your future health--health, you know, how healthy you going to be in the future. Also the potential costs, and so on, like, you know, what's happening in our healthcare. And, you know what I mean, so it was an amazing program that we work with Rice University, that was actually Dr. [Rebecca] Kortum. Do you know, her daughter was my student too, Kortum, yeah she was a student, Kate Kortum. [LS: Oh Kate Kortum, yes.] Yes, her mom was my mentor there. She help us develop the program, the curriculum. Yeah.

So we developed the curriculum from Rice, and then we modified it to suit our students. Because, because the Rice program is like way up here, you know what I mean, and our students are somewhere here. So we have to make it somewhere, and meet--meet somewhere in the middle, where it-it's adapting to the Rice curriculum, but somewhere where the kids can understand and grasp, like the value of design, the value of healthcare costs, or what causes heart disease, what are--and then if you have heart disease, what are the possible, you know, things that you need to do, and things like that, you know what I mean? Not just for them, but for their family. So we created a program, and--and one day, when 77:00we were, I was co-teaching the class with Ms. DiLuglio and another teacher, and Bill Gates showed up in our classroom. [LS: Wow.] Yes, that was the highlight of my teaching at KIPP! So Bill Gates showed up with his wife, Melissa, they sat in our classroom, they interacted with my students, and then they invited me to be part of the forum where we talk about education and the issues concerning the educational system and public schools. [LS: Did you go to that one?] Yes, I did. It was one, one after--the whole afternoon, he stayed with us. Yeah. Bill Gates, that was like, at least I can say, I met Bill Gates, and I talked to him. Yes. 78:00He was, he was sincere. He really cares about education and about the country, I would say, having those conversations.

LS: And so what do you think? To his answer to that question, like what is missing in the US educational system?

MD: What was my response? I--I think the big-, the biggest factor is the fact--well, there are a lot of, there's a lot of ills in educational system in United States, but I think really is finding the right teachers is the hardest thing. We don't, I think you see, you know that too. We need teachers who are truly passionate about what they do, and who truly have a purpose in mind when they get into education. Because I think that's what's missing. I mean, if you 79:00ask me, I've been in this business for twenty five years or more. And I've seen that, even right now, I'm--I'm working with, I'm mentoring teachers right now. And I've seen like, a lot of the teachers will get into education, just because of, you know, the vacation and the pay, or they think that it's higher than other careers. But I always tell them that, you know, it's more than that. Because you really can make a big difference in people's lives. Yeah.

LS: So then after KIPP, you went to PVA directly?

MD: Not yet. [LS: Not yet.] So I was at KIPP for seven years. So we created a program, we went a long way. I mean, we have, I have a lot of kids who, who did 80:00a lot of good things. I mean, we did a program, we developed a program, what else do they do at KIPP... I just, we're actually getting involved with a lot of research with UofH, with Rice University, with Texas A&M. So in summers I did a lot of re-research on engineering, just to update myself, at the same time develop connection for my kids to be able to work and meet those professor--professors. You know what I mean, that's how we invite universities into our school, is by also working with the university professors, and also myself, updating my--my skills in sciences. Then, from KIPP, I got recruited to work for Cy-Fair ISD. And that's where I work as an instructional coach. So I was out of the classroom for two years. And it was my least lis-liked job, being out of the classroom, working with teachers only, that was the hardest, I--I 81:00would say, that was the most difficult job ever, because of the fact that your--your hands are tied in terms of what you can do and how you can help their schools. So all we do is like design curriculum and lessons and then tell the teachers like, yeah, you need to teach this. Y ou know what I mean, and a lot of teachers don't have the skill to actually teach those courses or those topics. So you create the lesson, however, if teachers doesn't know the content, then how can they teach the content? Yeah. So it's--it's tough.

LS: You mentioned in your resume that you incorp--you would like design it to incorporate research based instructional strategies, can you elaborate a little bit more on what you mean by that?

MD: Research based instructional stra-strategy. So instead of kids just like, you know, learning from textbook, you make them think through the process, like questioning techniques, for example, like, I think you've seen that in your, in your class, right? I don't give the straight a-answer right away, I would guide 82:00you through, like, the thinking process. Hopefully, you will catch up later on, like, what it is, and then if you still get, don't get it, that's, that's the only time I would say it, and then explain why. So it's, it's more of like a brain-based research, teaching, where in, it's rather than just, you know, say, you may help them get a grasp of the concept. That's one. Second is doing experiment, but more-moreover, like connecting the experiment to what you're teaching. Yeah, um, that's very hard, because number one, even at PVA, because of the fact that since you don't have a lot of time in class--the best way to learn actually is through inquiry based learning. But the problem is, we don't have time, especially if you take or teaching AP classes. So the only thing you 83:00can do is, like, find, like, you know, what really works, and what--what research would say, the best ways to teach are, and then help and guide teachers in terms of like, you know, how can they develop their own strategy based on their own personality to be able to teach the course, effectively. Yeah, and that was the hardest thing, because a lot of the teachers are not very thoughtful. I mean, as a teacher, you should hone your own skill. And then just adapt to like, you know, what--what other people would tell you, like, hey, if it works for me, it may not work for anybody. Like Mr. [Eastman] Landry is an effective teacher. His style is different from me. You know what I mean? Yeah, Ms. DiLuglio is an effective teacher--did you have, did you have Ms. DiLuglio? 84:00[LS: Uh no, I didn't, actually.] Oh you didn't take AP Bio?

LS: Uh, I did that with Mr. [Wen] Zhao.

MD: But not AP Bio?

LS: Yeah, it was AP Bio, but Ms. DiLuglio had left that year.

MD: Oh, so you had Mr. Zhao last year? [LS: Yes.] Oh, yeah, for half of the year. Okay. [LS: Yeah.] Yeah, that was sad. But yeah, yeah, Mr. Zhao has a very different style of teaching. Yes.

LS: So do you think that HISD provides enough opportunities and incentives for teachers' advancement?

MD: Good question, should I answer yes or no? I would say minimum, yeah, minimum opportunities, yes. Not the same as KIPP, or it--it was not the same as--HISD, before I left for KIPP, used to have a lot of resources to actually send teachers for trainings, for professional development. When I came back from Cy-Fair, because right after Cy-Fair I went back to KIPP. Ah sorry, right after Cy-Fair, I went back to HISD. HISD was a totally different district then. They don't have a lot of opportunities for teachers; the teachers, a lot that I--I actually encounter, when I came back, are all like, tired and haggard and not excited about teaching, compared to when I--I left HISD. I think the administration has a big effect on--on how progressive the districts can be.


LS: So if there any areas or skills that you'd like to be seen made available for teachers, more available for teachers to take advantage of, like, what would those be?

MD: Are you referring to like teaching skills, or?

LS: Teaching, and, like, or any changes in administration that you think...

MD: I would say that there should be a stronger relationship, or co-cohort, or, how would I say it, collaboration, and I totally agree with this, between teachers within schools are talking about high schools, maybe elementary schools, maybe middle schools, but mostly high schools and universities and community. And it's something I've seen in Singapore, actually, that I find to be very effective. Think about--ok, think about, like what I did, and I--I, and everything that I've done, let's say at Rice, working with professors doing research, which I brought back to your class, every time I teach, I can have, I had this, I can, I can cite something that I can tell the kids like, you know, this content actually works this way. And I've seen it happening, you know what I mean? So it--it does not become, like, too abstract to not just the students, but also to the teachers, because a lot of times, we're teaching things that are abstract. If you haven't, we're not even aware of like what it is about, you 86:00know what I mean? For example, I've seen S--I've used SEM, a scan-scanning electron microscopy, so I know how electrons get excited, and so on, when you're dealing with like, you know, electronic excitation. But how many teachers have worked with those, in sciences or science fields.

And not only that, for example, if you're an economics teacher, you should be working with business industries. So you can truly create an, a lesson that is realistic, you know what I mean, that students can connect with. [LS: So you think--] Say again? [LS: Go ahead, sorry.] No no, I was just wondering, because I've seen that in Singapore, when DiLuglio and I went there, I mean, we--Nanyang Tech, actually did like the upper level, their kids, their jun-junior and senior high school students are working with the community to be able to make their courses realistic. For example, in, they have a course in food chemistry. And 87:00they're actually really baking. And there's a big bakery, and they talk about, like, you know, how you modify, like certain ingredients to come up with the best product that you want to be, you want to have, or their audio visual design class, creating publicity ads for events in the community. You know what I mean, so these are the things that actually should be realistic. I don't know if PVA, I think at PVA at least you guys work with the HGO, Houston Grand Ope-Opera House and, or the Houston Symphony, right? [LS: Like the art areas, mhm.] Yes, correct. Right? But I don't know what the other schools if they're doing it the same way. So, and--but not only that, but all--all the other, you know, classes or teachers should be actively, more actively engaged in the community.


LS: I see. Let's see. So what did you do right after Cy-Fair?

MD: I went back to Houston ISD, actually, so I was, after two years of work at Cy-Fair, I feel like I'm wasting my time. I've never felt I was [unintelligible], because one thing about education is you--you just don't look for--well, money wise, it's actually paying well, but again, your energy isn't all about money, right? It's all about also like your, how would I say, self actualization. You feel like you're doing something to the community and you're being effective. So I decided that I think I'd be more effective. If I go back to the classroom and I'm more excited, because I, I can, I can, you know, make a 89:00difference in people's lives, and I can create something that is truly functional and model it to other teachers. And then that's when Energy High School was starting. Yeah, so I was one of the, I was the first chemistry teacher at Energy High School.

LS: You started a lot of programs, yeah.

MD: Yes, I did. Yes. Yeah, we, I was actually--it's the funniest thing is, my class is the only class that actually had a--a real project based learning lesson at Energy High School. All the other teachers, they claim that they're doing PBL, but it's not really PBL. We did an amazing restaurant wars, where they look into chemistry, they look at food chem, and they talk about the 90:00different chemical reactions and so on. And then they created their own design. They had the restaurant, and then it's a fundraising for a local, a local charity, so. They raised a lot of money. I think they raised like about $3,000. Then that night, yeah. So--but again, Dr. [R. Scott] Allen recruited me, because of Ms. DiLuglio. So I only stayed at Energy for one year, and I think my, our principal was so disappointed. But, again, I can't say no to Ms. DiLuglio. So that's how I got to the PVA, back to PVA. And now DiLuglio is trying to make me transfer to her school again. [Both laugh]

LS: The saga continues!

MD: Yes. So you see how I moved from school to school to school? You see the pattern? [LS: Ms. DiLuglio!] It's not just Ms. DiLuglio, it was like, you know, people you know, or you got excited and you stayed there, so. It's all about chasing your, chasing your own passion, I would say. Yeah.

LS: So you've been, you say that you've started lots of STEM extracurriculars at 91:00other schools, and you also have at PVA. So can I ask why you decided to sponsor the Asian Pacific American Alliance [APAA] at PVA?

MD: Um okay, so, I've never taught in a school where I--I--I have, I have a lot of Asian students. And if you notice, I started working at the refugee camp, where all my kids are Asians, right. And even in the international school, all my students were Asians. But I'm always fascinated by the Asian culture. And I truly believe that, us Asians has a lot of, how would I say it, a lot of lessons to share to other--other cultures. You know what I mean? Asian culture is rea-, it's actually a lot richer than--and I wouldn't say that okay, maybe--maybe they would think I-I'm just being biased--but I truly believe that Asian culture is a lot richer than any other, you know, other cultures in the Western world. The fact that you know, from food itself, if you go from one Asian country to another, food varies, like even teaching at the refugee camp, Cambodian food is different from Laotian, and also different from Vietnamese, totally different. Each of them has their own distinct taste, distinct flavor, you know what I mean? Dances--I mean, obviously, the dances in Laos and Cambodia and Vietnam, and they're totally different. Even the fact that they're like, next to each 92:00other and connected by land, you know what I mean, so I'm fascinated by that. And at the same time also the--there's a lot of beauty that we can share in this world, I would say, as Asians, the only thing is, how do we package it in a way that other people would see and understand and learn? And that's what I was hoping for APAA to do. So it's not just food, but also--I was actually thinking of now, like, you know, like, today, I-I-I'm gonna tell Isabelle, Isabelle is in charge now, right? Isabelle Chang. I'm also gonna tell her about, like, you know, having a game night, or a game day, bring each of us would, each country would actually exhibit their own unique game, to the, to the community. And the reason why I thought of that is because of mahjong. You know what I mean? Because mahjong is only one of them. You got the mancala, you got other stuff that every country has their own, you know I mean? So it would be, it will be introducing various games from the various Asian nations to the community. Yeah.

LS: There's--now there's a few questions on COVID, just because [MD: Okay.] we're in this time. So how do you think the COVID-19 pandemic has affected your teaching?


MD: I think it made, definitely made teaching harder, definitely, I mean, that's 100%. Even with AP Chemistry last year, we weren't able to cover the topics as strongly as the you know, as I was able to teach your class, you know what I mean, we get to acid-base, like acid base equilibrium. We didn't get to electrochem. However, I was so lucky that, you know, we were, we were on face until like, until chemical equilibrium, and they stop the AP Chem curriculum last year to exactly to where we stopped. So I was so lucky last year, in a certain way. But this year, we, everything's going so slowly, because I have my students who are on face to face are learning faster than my students who are at 94:00home. Again, it goes back again to the fact that maybe it's also me, that I--I--I worry so much about my students, to the point of, I slowed down because I want to make sure that they're getting it. Or maybe they're not getting it. I don't know. It's--it's hard, because, because people who are at home, there's not--if they don't ask questions, I wouldn't know if they're learning or not. Think about that, you know, I mean, none of your teachers are mind readers.

So I can't read their minds, all I can do is hope that they will ask questions, they will seek help, or, you know what I mean, or they will practice as I tell them to practice. And the fact is, what also complicates everything is that Houston ISD, also, how would I say it, e-encourages laziness in the whole process, where in--you know what I mean, we can't enforce anything to the kids, because of the fact that, you know, they--they always give them excuses. And they're like, oh, you know, they're--they're home, they can't do this, they can't do that. So it's--it's a matter of like--what I was hoping for is balance 95:00between, you know what I mean, between responsibility and accountability, and understanding that there might be some circumstance where, you know, they're--they're, they may not, they lose their internet, or they may have a bad connection. But there should be a balance between the two, and also accountability. Yeah, accountability portion, I think is missing in terms of the HISD policy.

LS: Are there any changes that you envision about, like, teaching post-COVID, or things that you think you could've, you could take from this?

MD: Definitely, I would say. Um, and I'll be--I mean, this is the something that I--I wish would happen, that after COVID, all the educators and all even the--not just us, but because everything that we do is dictated by the Texas Education Agency, and College Board. There should be a thoughtfulness in terms 96:00of what--what matters most, in terms of education, because of--a lot of the curriculum are very, very broad, you know what I mean, to the point of like, there are a lot of unnecessary things that we're teaching, or we're enforcing in our classes or curriculum. And there's some things that truly matter in terms of learning. For example, from approaching teaching chemistry, if you--there's a lot of things that you know, you can be very curriculum-based, textbook-based. Or you can also be, you can balance the textbook or the curriculum with things that matters to kids, that teaches them scientific literacy, while they're learning chemistry. And I think for me, literacy is more important than the content, especially with the situation we are in now. That's why we have a lot 97:00of people who does not believe in science. The literacy piece is actually missing. Yeah.

LS: And last question about COVID. If you could--if there's like one thing that you think you learned from this whole experience that needs to happen in post-COVID world, or just something that's a positive takeaway, anything, what would it be?

MD: What would it be? Okay, I will be more intentional about what I, how I teach my, how I teach my class. And, actually, I--I don't know, I--I--I actually, when you were my student, if it comes out, that I--I tried to make you guys think, um, be thoughtful about your own decision, and not just believe everything that 98:00people tell you. And I think that's something I always emphasize, because the biggest, the biggest problem we have in our communities, society right now is people fall into the, you know what I mean, into, like, people would fall into false information, or believe false information, without thinking it through. And it's something that I have to make sure that I--this is part of scientific literacy. You know what I mean, that the, there are information that are out there, even information that I am telling people that may not be 100%, you know, accurate because of the fact that I don't have all the information still. So, you know what I mean, and science is a process wherein , what you, what we seem to know to be correct today may not be correct tomorrow. And knowing that we 99:00have to be always worried about information that we have, and be open-minded and start thinking, you know what I mean, and--and believe everything with questions. So, it's something that I have to emphasize when I teach, and I hope all science teachers will do that. Because we--we are in the United States, actually, as, at the cusp of like, you know, certain situation right now we're in, if you don't act on it really strongly, well, right now, we're going to have a big problem in the future. Yeah.

LS: Okay, I'm mindful of time. So I want to--let's do the last section, which is just more of like personal perspectives and things like that. [MD: Sure! Yeah.] So are you involved at all in Houston's local Filipino community and...

MD: Other than friends? No, not really. I mean, I wanted to do, but I don't have time. I mean, I'm seriously would want to. And in fact, I tried to one time, but I always am swamped with--okay, so, how, I was trying to explain it to actually another teacher, the fact that, for example, if you have 190 students, right? 100:00And if you give them a homework or a certain test, and assuming that you would grade that homework, one minute per student, that's like, 190 minutes already. That's how many hours? [LS: Yeah, wow, yeah.] Okay. And imagine that's only grading, and you don't grade one minute per kid, that would be crazy, it would be, like, ten minutes, at least with to grade the paper. And in addition to that, you also have to plan your lesson, you have to do this, you have to do that, especially with virtual learning. We have to create the digital res--learning, we have to put a digital calendar, then we have to submit a lesson plan, we have to submit, we have to inform the parents of 504, we have to grade their report. It's like nonstop. So it's--there is a Filipino community that, actually not even community of Filipinos, it's actually an Asian community that I wanted to get involved with. And one of them also is the Asian Democrats Society. I mean they're--it's a political group for Asian--Asian Americans. But it's a Democratic Party, Asian that--that actually reaches out to oth-, reaches out to other Asians, because I know for a fact the importance of political activism when I was in the Philippines and growing up. Remember, I told you about martial law in the Philippines and fighting a dictator? And I'm seeing that it's more important right now in the United States, to reach out to other members of our community for them to understand that, hey, it's not just about the party. It's about what's best for our society, really. Yeah.


LS: So how would you identify yourself, like as Filipino or American or Filipino American? Or has that like kind of changed?

MD: I don't have a Filipino--I lost my Filipino citizenship, right? And I'm, I actually have, like, four more years, and I can retire from teaching. I'm just always thinking of that, and then I'm thinking like, should I retire back in the Philippines? But I--I don't think so. I'm not gonna go, I can't live there, because the community, and every time I go and visit, I--I would leave disappointed. You know what I mean? So I would say I'm still Filipino, but I'm Filipino American. Right now. Yeah.

LS: Has that identity changed over time? Or was it, um, [MD: It did, actually.] while you were here?

MD: It did. There was a time when I was thinking that I'm just gonna go here, work in the United States, and come back in the Philippines. But as I stayed 102:00here, all my friends were here, all my friends are here. And my friends became my family. You know what I mean, so it's--it's--as much the fact that, you know, I had a lot of bad experiences in the Philippines and so on. And I really have, like, even the house that I grew up in, it's gone. So there's really nobody, nothing to go back to, except my siblings. And my siblings, they also need help, so I'm here. I wish I can take them here, but I can't, you know what I mean, I'm the only person in my family who graduated college, so it's--it's difficult.

LS: Do you mind me asking what your siblings do?

MD: Oh, yeah, my, I have a brother who actually--okay, so I have a sister who got lucky. She's married to the nephew of the King of Brunei. So, very wealthy, so she got lucky, okay? Yeah, but her son is the one, and her son actually is--my nephew is in full scholarship in France. Then the other son is in Japan, 103:00also teaching--teaching English. He went to Australia for college. But that was in my sister side. My older brother, he lives in the house that I have in Philippines, in-in Polomolok, that's Dole, the house that I used to stay, he's staying there now. I think his kids are all in Dubai. They work in Dubai. But they're not well off, at all. In fact, he stays in house for free, you know what I mean? My young, my youngest sister, she's married. Her son actually works in--he's a engineer at a ship, oil tanker. And every time he's in Houston, he would visit me. They're--they're okay. They're not, like, wealthy, but they're okay. But I have other two siblings that are not doing well. One of them's the one who got separated from us when my mom and dad separated. He's the one--oh, I forgot to tell you, another sister actually, she's the sister who, when my mom and dad separated, she was left to our nanny, growing up. I used to have a 104:00nanny. And she, my mom and, my mom went back to Mindanao, join us. My dad disappeared. And they left my nanny and my sister in the house. Just by themselves, no money, nothing. And my, the nanny has to beg, and so on. And then finally, she can't support my sister anymore. So she has to look for my other relatives from father's side to adopt her. And I didn't see her until high school, or college. When I was in college, I finally got to see her. But then it was too late, because she was, she has a very low self-esteem. She's very, you know what I mean, she's very insecure because of the fact that, of what happened 105:00to her. She was passed on from family to family. And now I'm helping her. She got, she has a daughter, and I'm helping her family, because they're, her husband just lost their job because of COVID in the Philippines.

LS: Do you have family in Houston?

MD: None, zero. No family here. I have a cousin in--in Florida. Yeah, she's there, but she grew up, they grew up in Spain. Yeah, their dad is half Spanish. So they--they're, they're Spanish citizens. And I'm close to them. Yeah. So she's my, I would say my only relative in the US. So it's just the two of us. I have a half sister who I haven't met. She live in Washington. I called her one time, and, yeah, we had a conversation about my dad because she was my half sister because of my dad. But she never invited me to her house, and so on. So I, like, okay, [unintelligible] I just you know, I'm just reaching out to you if you want to hang out or meet or--or--your loss, not mine.


LS: Okay, um, what parts of Filipino culture have you brought with you to life in the States, like, traditions and foods and that kind of stuff?

MD: Traditions and food? I mean, food, food, definitely, all of them. Yeah, okay, yeah, I can cook, like, a lot of Filipino food. Um, but I--I try, I--I avoid to eat, avoid eating a lot of Filipino food nowadays, because they're all high in cholesterol. Except for the egg roll, right, the egg roll. And them, um, tradition? I don't--okay. I don't sing karaoke. Filipinos love karaoke. I don't, even if, maybe if I'm drunk, I would just sing karaoke. But no. What else, maybe being kind, I would say, or thoughtful. That's very Filipino in nature, being, 107:00yeah, thinking about other people than yourself. I would say, that's very Filipino, you know what I mean? What else? Hospitality. Like even my friends that I barely know, I would invite, or I would, I would, you know, that's very Filipino. What other things that I would say very Filipino? I think that's it. Yeah.

LS: Are there holidays, or things like that that you celebrate?

MD: Which is weird, by the way, we celebrate similar to American holidays. Except there's like local Filipino holidays, but they're more around, like, H eroes' Day. Yeah, but we do celebrate like November 1, which is actually Halloween here, but in the Philippines, we call it Dia de los Muertos, and it's Spanish. Christmas, New Year--we don't even celebrate Chinese New Year, we celebrate American New Year. It's s-so weird, right? We're Asians, but we're so American in a lot of things. We used to have a July Fourth celebration. We call it the Filipino American Friendship Day. Yeah, you know Philippines used to be a 108:00colony of US? [LS: Yeah, mhm.] Yeah. So.

LS: So as a teacher, what do you try to instill in your students?

MD: I would say integrity, the value of, how would I say, knowing for a fact that you can, that you can be man for others, kind of Jesuit model, you know what I mean, that you don't, that everything that you do is not only just for yourself, but it's really for a greater good of everybody. I really hope that they see that, because in the United States it's a big fight about being individualistic. And if you actually see what's happening in our community right now, like people are wearing mask, people who, you know what I mean, who say that this is my right or whatever, a lot of it was down to the idea of like, you know, individualism, being individualistic, rather than thinking about what's greater good for the community. Yeah, and I think as Asians, I think that values more Asians, like thinking about community in general, rather than self.

LS: Has this value that you emphasize, like, changed over time, like, as you gained experience as a teacher? Or do you think you've always been, like, 109:00reinforcing that?

MD: I think, I think, it's more of like, not because of me being a teacher, as--as you get older too, you view, you experience a lot of things in your life. And the more you experience things, you gain wisdom. You know what I mean, and in the process, you realize, like, hey, these things work, these things does not work, this things would benefit people, this things would not benefit people. So you kind of hone your own skills, you--that's why there's such thing as, so we called, expertise, right? It's not--in fact, they even said that, you know, you don't get become an expert until after ten years, because of the fact that, you know, there are some skills that you truly learn, and then you start to see patterns. And then you just realize that, hey, these things are necessary and important. Yeah.

LS: I see. Um, this is a bit more specific, but [MD: Mhm.] for your Asian American students who are growing up during like, COVID, and seeing, like, rising anti-Asian rhetoric, and do you have any advice for them, like, navigating this time? Or even after?

MD: Yeah, even--and this is actually something I always have a conversation with my class. And I think you've seen that, when you were in my student, that sometimes I would pause the class and talk about values, or talk about, you know, significance of life. And the conversation I always have with my students this time is about resiliency. Yeah, and I mean in the sense of the fact that 110:00knowing that, yeah, so we are in this current situation, right now, it's difficult, because what I hear from a lot of professionals, or even administrators, or teachers, is always to decide, oh, yeah, we understand that you're, you know, that you're in a situation right now and so on, is always about, to the point of like, almost enabling, you know what I mean? Like, poor little you, we understand poor little you, and then that's it, we, they leave it there, without getting to the second point of, we understand where you are at now, but on the other hand, we also need to understand that after all of this, we're going to get back to normal. And the question is, are you ready for that normal? So how did you prepare yourself? When we get back to things, when things 111:00are going to get tougher? You know what I mean?

And also, on the other hand, realizing that, yes, you are encountering this situation, but all--all of us are encountering this situation. So the question here is, you know, how are we, how are we setting up our mindset to be able to survive and be better after this? And then the question I always ask my students is, what are the skills, what are the things that you learned in this situation? Because there's, because, you know, it's a tough situation, but--but if you look at the whole, the history of the world, this is not the first time that the world has encountered pandemic. Then for people who survive, there should be something that they've done, to be able to make them better afterwards. So those are the things and challenges that I think we and I try to encourage my students to start thinking about, more than chemistry I would always tell them, more than chemistry, should--should be like a lesson that you've learned. Okay. And you also really preparing yourself because reality is, you're going to get to college. And then when you get to college, if you don't have the right skill, you're going to be at a disadvantage. Yeah, because Kincaid did not stop 112:00teaching, St. John did not stop teaching. And some of your other classmates who are from you know, top schools, maybe Clements High School, or whatever, you know what you mean, they will have the edge over you, because that's exactly what life is.

LS: Do you have any advice for young teachers or teachers just starting out, particularly those with minority backgrounds?

MD: Yes, um, so there are several Fil-Fil--I actually am mentoring a Filipino teacher right now. The thing I always encourage her is like, you know, be passionate about what you do. You know what I mean? And a lot of times people will tell you not to do things, because of their personal experience. But if you feel and you truly believe that it will benefit your kids, then do it, you know what I mean, and apologize later. Because a lot of times, educators are doing 113:00things based on rules and laws that are logical, but will not benefit the students in general. And, you know what I mean, so do what you believe is, and you--you--you pr-, you truly believe is right for your students, and for, you know, for the community. It--it may be a lot of work, but also that, you know, education is not an easy job. Teaching is not an easy job. People think it's easy, but it's a lot of work, a lot of thoughtfulness in terms of what you do, you have to be really passionate. Even--even myself, like, this is my twenty-fifth year teaching. Twenty-sixth actually, and you won't believe it, right now, even until now, I would, I still create my own lessons, I still 114:00design, you know what I mean, my lesson, my [unintelligible], the way I taught your chemistry class is very different from our way of teaching it now. It's a very dynamic skill. Yeah, because your class is very different from the class I have right now. So if I teach them the same way as I taught your class, then they would-- you know what I mean, they will react differently, so.

LS: What would you say is your proudest achievement in life so far?

MD: I never--never thought--I don't know what, I don't know which one. What do you think? Now I, you know my life story. What do you think? [LS: I can't make that call!] You cannot make that call? Okay, if I, if I asked you, what would you say?

LS: Hm, yeah, it's difficult to say.


MD: Yeah it's hard, right? It's hard. I would say, I mean, being a teacher itself is, I think, a profession where you get a lot of rewards, I would say, the fact that I have students who are now successful, more successful than I am, makes me proud, you know what I mean? Like, I have a student who is now a doctor. He used to be my student in chemistry, he got sick for one semester, I have to send lessons to him when he was at Texas Medical Center. And second semester, he came back the following year, he took AP Chem. That was at KIPP. He got to UT Austin on my recommendation, he went to UT Southwestern in Dallas. He graduated last year, he invited me for his graduation, but we can't, we canceled because of COVID. Now he's a doctor. And he was one of those, he's only one of 116:00those. I have a student who is now a professor at one of the universities in Michigan. And he was my student that I taught when, at that international school. He was my student in, since he was in fourth--fourth grade, fourth grade in chemistry, in math and science, then in math, then in chemistry, then in physics, and now he's a physics professor, in particle physics. And then I have several others, like several professors now, several doctors, several lawyers, I have a student who support--now a lawyer, fighting for immi-, for the undocumented in the borders, that are separated from their kids, the parents.

So, yeah, those are, those are my moments, my proudest moments, I would say. So, for me, like the job of a teacher is not limited to one country or one nation. You are actually a citizen of the world, I would say, in general. And I always tell my students that we think of this planet as a, you know, as separate, like countries to be separate. But in reality, the planet that we are in is like a spaceship, that we're all passengers. So if--if we ruin one part of the planet, we're actually destroying the whole planet in general, because we have no other place to go. We're all in this together. So we have to work united, you have to, you know what I mean? So it's a different perspective, I would say.

LS: That's really insightful. So do you have any future aspirations or goals or, where do you see yourself?

MD: Enjoying my retirement. Make enough money so I can retire. Yeah. Actually I have a student who asked me if I want to work with him. He called me about two weeks ago, he's now started a business in California. And I told him, like, I'm 117:00retiring, and he's asking me if I want to work with him. I said, yeah, maybe I'll think of it, because he wanted to go into clothing business, and he's doing--and I told him, I can connect him with some shops in the Philippines who can create, you can, who can do the, you know what I mean, the, who can create those clothes for him and then ship it. Like you remember, everything we have here is made in China, made in Japan, or made in Indonesia, or made in⁠-- you know what I mean? So, for production, I don't know. But we'll see. I have a lot of skills other than teaching.

LS: Yes. Last question, how would you like to be remembered?

MD: That's a nice--I mean, I--I always, do you know I think of that too, every now and then, like, you know, if I die, what would, what would people say? In my, in the eulogy? And I always think of that, because I remember Ms., your 118:00English teacher, did you have her? [LS: Yeah, Ms. [Virginia] Ballard?] Yeah. Did you have her? [LS: Um, no, but...] You never had her? Okay. So I was just thinking of that, like, you know, what would people say when I--maybe they can say like, I'm kind, or I care. That's it. That I'm passionate, and I care about every person that I actually meet or teach. Yeah. [LS: That's really sweet, yeah.] What do you think? Do I care?

LS: Yes, you do.

MD: I hope.

LS: Yeah, I--for sure you do. Um, so is there anything else that you'd like to share or add that we haven't talked about yet, or?

MD: I mean, I mean, I'm--I'm not sure. Like, I don't know, it's like, it 119:00just--well, you know, you think life one day at a time, you know what I mean, and that's how I, how we be, how we survive in, like, difficulty, difficult times. And nowadays, you look forward to, I mean the future, you know what I mean, and be--be smart about your decisions, I would say. So my question for you, now listening to the story I told you now you, do you understand now how I, why I teach the way I teach? [LS: Yes, I do.] Why I do what I--I do in school?

LS: Yeah. It's very insightful to listen to you.

MD: Yeah I hope so. I mean, I don't, I don't know. But nobody knows, yeah, some parts of my story, of my life. Yeah.

LS: Yeah. Alright, well, thank you for your time. I'm gonna just stop the recording right now...