The isolation brought by the pandemic has left most of us feeling alone and to a point, out of touch. In an online setup, the spirit of community seems to be close to none as our only means of communication is through our screens. This is especially unfortunate for CIS since our community is extremely vibrant, with the staff and students coming from different backgrounds. The lack of physical classes has postponed many plans for us like eating Spanish food with Miss Gloria or trying home-cooked Indian dishes by Miss Rebecca. Apart from food, we are also missing out on our classmates’ stories about growing up Filipino, Korean, and etc.
International-mindedness is a core principle in our school. It is developed when we communicate with other people from various cultures; when we understand and gain respect for them despite coming from different backgrounds. This is the goal of Culture Week which is why different interactive activities that promote the awareness and understanding of other cultures were offered the entire week.
Culture Week culminated in today’s International Day. The day started off with our opening ceremony, paying respects to the Philippine national anthem. It was then followed by a greeting in Filipino, getting the parade of nations to start. The Filipinos of CIS showed off their national outfits. They were then followed by Australia, Belgium, Brazil, and many other amazing countries! A message was then given by Mr. Andrew Powell, talking about our culturally diverse school. The culture show began with an upbeat performance by Grades 4 & 5, called Great New Day. It was then continued with a soulful song of Part of Your World from the Little Mermaid from the MHS Mandarin class. These presentations were accompanied by the fun Cultural Dance Medley by the Middle High school PHE class, Yue Liang Dai Biao Wo De Xin by DP students, Arirand by Jun from grade 4, and more. There is an abundance of other great performances, even including one done by teachers!
Afterward, students proceeded to the different meetings for the countries they signed up for. Each country presented interesting facts, most using Kahoot to which all aim to share information about the cultural aspects of that specific country. After the activities, we asked teachers their opinions on the week. Ms. Gerri, our art teacher, said “I think it went very well. The opening show and HR activities showed planning and organization. The hindrance of course due to the pandemic is not being able to do this on-site in school. However, our staff, teachers, and students have adapted well and were able to make it work even with this limitation,” when asked about how she thought the day went. Miss Marie Briones, a music teacher echoed the same sentiment and even mentioned an added benefit to a virtual culture week, “Some student-performers learned how to be more independent, proactive and to take even more responsibility for the outcome of their performances. As a result, they’ve not only learned the pieces for the performance but discovered more about how they learn best by themselves as well.”
However, the disadvantages that come with a virtual Culture Week was also clear to Miss Gerri who said, “While the virtual celebration was good, it does not include all the other senses in the experience – such as the smell of food in the gym, the sound of people laughing and talking in the hallways, the feel of the sun in the field as we play games or the sound of music played in the classrooms as activities are carried out.” Nonetheless, in terms of being informative, Miss Gerri affirms that this year’s event was still very informative especially through the heritage sites and activities found on the Culture Week website. Both Ms. Briones and Ms. Geraldine’s students contributed to these activities through their preparation of UNESCO Heritage sites, the running of the International Day activities, and their contribution as performers in the Cultural Show. Miss Briones added that she wishes for her students to be able to perform live for the CIS community.
A virtual culture week carries its own pros and cons, with the cons probably outweighing the pros. Despite this, the celebration of Culture Week is completely necessary even in an online setup. When asked why Culture Week is important, Miss Marie answered, “I cannot stress the importance and relevance of a Culture Week highly enough especially in school communities during this difficult time. We live in a very polarized world where diversity is often regarded as an either-or question…Culture Week explicitly reminds us that we have just as much to celebrate with our similarities as we do with our uniqueness and differences.”
The event ended with a short closing message from our Superintendent, Dr. Gwyn Underwood. A short but enlightening quote from the message, “Our annual culture week and international day serve as a means to showcase and highlight intercultural understanding and respect but we must also keep in mind that putting global citizenship principles into practice is a daily event and CIS ensures this happens in classes through the curriculum at all levels.”
Despite the circumstances, we were able to hold our second successful virtual culture week. The cooperation between the student body and the faculty truly helped create a cohesive and interactive event that’s almost if not just as informative as a non-virtual culture week. If anything, the event revealed the school’s own collective culture– one of unity and adaptability. However, we still hold hope that next year will be different and that we can finally see one another and hopefully try one another’s cultural dishes and witness the cultural show live!
Thank you to all the teachers who have shared their insights for this article.
Article by Jaschia D. (Grade 12), Sofia J. (Grade 10); Feature Image by Victoria J. (Grade 11)
The views expressed in this article represent the personal views of the author and should not be taken to represent the views of Dragon’s Print and Cebu International School.