THE MOMENT they stepped into the campus of the Philippine High School for the Arts or PHSA in 1988, Roselle Pineda says that she and the other freshmen were made aware they were being trained to be the country’s future cultural leaders.
“Medyo mayabang pakinggan (It may sound like I’m bragging),” says Pineda, now 34 and teaching at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, “but this makes you realize at the start that you are scholars of the people, the cream of the crop, and therefore you have the duty to give back something to the people.”
Then again, PHSA is no ordinary school. As its name implies, it specializes in the arts, and it takes as students only those who are deemed gifted in writing or in either performing or visual arts. It is, in fact, the creative counterpart of the older Philippine Science High School or Pisay, which caters to youths with “high aptitude for sciences and math.”
NORMAL – THAT can be such a loaded term because the opposite seems to be “abnormal.” But let’s be semantically neutral and look at normal as a statistical label, referring to the majority. Related words are “norms” and “normative,” which are used to refer to values that the majority of society subscribes to. We know, though, that the norms can sometimes end up being unjust or oppressive, sometimes by labeling the ones who are different, the ones who are non-conformist, as “abnormal.”
That’s why “special” comes in handy, in the way it challenges social stigma and, going further, has a privileging function. In the Philippine context, “special” was a term that was quickly accepted because even in our traditionally conformist society, many Filipinos did see “special children” as blessings, as suwerte (good luck).
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