MANILA, Philippines—A Filipino public school teacher is on a mission: to teach the world about the beauty and culture of the Philippines.
Karlyn Tefora, 34, was a teacher at Rafael Palma elementary school in Manila before she got a scholarship on international management in Japan. There she stayed for four years doing volunteer work.
Tefora told INQUIRER.net in an exclusive phone interview that she would participate in cultural exchange events in international universities representing the Philippines.
She would wear native Igorot garments and explain about Philippine culture to the Japanese students. One time she even danced the Tinikling, and got her feet caught in the bamboo poles, just to share the traditional Filipino culture.
“[I learned] a lot from the cultural exchanges and in doing that for many years in universities, I became well-known for my performances and many universities would contact me to represent the Philippines,” Tefora said.
Eventually, after four years in Japan, she found a new job in Auckland, New Zealand teaching children with autism.
In Auckland, Tefora did a photo exhibit this year that featured many of the Philippines’ beautiful tourist spots and rich culture.
Her photos of Philippine beaches, food, festivals, culture, etc., had sparked an interest in many of the New Zealanders who saw her exhibit and they also rekindled the Pinoy spirit in many Filipinos who have migrated there.
Some of the New Zealanders who saw her photo of a waterfall in Siquijor thought that it was a shot of a waterfall in New Zealand, she said. Others who saw pictures of Puca beach in Boracay thought it was a beach in Thailand, she added.
“They were surprised when I told them these [places] are in the Philippines. It’s the first time they realized there are places like these in the Philippines,” Tefora said,
She also exhibited photos of festivals in the country such as the colourful MassKara Festival in Bacolod, Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo, and the Ati-Atihan festival in Kalibo, Aklan, which sparked the interest of many and made them ask where the photos were taken, she said.
Many of the Filipinos who have been in New Zealand for many years said they were touched by Tefora’s photos and reminded them of how long they have been away from the country.
“I also had photos of carabaos and many Filipinos said they missed the Philippines when they saw them,” Tefora said.
She said that she was probably the first Filipino to exhibit only photos taken in the Philippines. “At least this is my way to show my pride [for the Philippines] because in New Zealand there are many promoting their country like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Cambodia.”
“It made me sad that in the Philippines we have so many beautiful places but they are not promoted well,” Tefora said.
“I just really wanted to share. I did not receive any money for the exhibit,” Tefora said. “I shelled out my own money for the exhibit.”
There were a few who had wanted to buy her photos, but she said she did not want to sell any of them because she wants to use them again next year in more exhibits.
“It will be my contribution as a Filipino, for the Philippines to become known in New Zealand,” she said.
When told that she should be paid by the Department of Tourism for her efforts, she said that what she was doing was purely “by heart.”
“I doesn’t matter whether they pay or not, I’m doing this by heart. I’m not spending too much, but this is just my way of sharing. What use will my photos be if they are just there on my Facebook account,” she said.
“[I wanted] to do something more concrete and not just upload photos on Facebook. It’s better to have a proper venue for an exhibit with actual photos they can see,” she said.
Tefora’s submitted photos were chosen by INQUIRER.net for its Paskong Pinoy photo contest. She is currently in the country on vacation visiting her siblings in Bacolod and is set to return to New Zealand January 31 next year.