School Days



The worst thing that can happen in a dining experience is if someone acts like a boor at the table. Face it: no one wants to associate with someone who slurps through the soup, makes a sandwich of the dinner roll, or talks to everyone at the table while chewing. It is a complete turn-off, which automatically closes all doors of opportunities.  A pig at the table becomes an unwitting victim of etiquette bullies, who take utmost delight in pointing out the mistakes. I witnessed such an event years ago when I was a still a journalist in Singapore. I was at a dinner function and next to me was an American lady who, I learned, was casually sizing up people based on what they’d do with the dinner roll.

“You know how to eat the roll!” she gushed just as I took a bite of it.

She continued: “You know how to tear it into small pieces and butter them unlike those across the table who cut it in the middle and spread butter.”

Flabbergasted, I just looked at her even after she handed me her name card that said she was some sort of an etiquette expert. I flashed her a wry smile and continued to ignore her the rest of the evening.

That incident is not a nugatory one. It smacks of a high-handed attitude of a know-it-all towards the ignoramuses, and which blatantly ignores context. Dinner buns, after all, are not compulsory in an Asian dining setting.  Asians do observe dining etiquette. Seared into my memory, I pushed for holding a seminar on western dining etiquette for teenagers when I went back to teaching. I felt strongly they must be armed to the teeth when they venture out of their homes and it begins with dining etiquette. It took several tries to finally get it right. There was always something going amiss. For instance, one time the organizer was a drifter who conned us into believing they could hold such a seminar (imagine – they had no cutlery!). The other time the organizer didn’t serve food after the seminar, saying it wasn’t part of the package we paid for (she didn’t tell us it was a separate payment for the food!).


Pak Vino (right) and Pak Cecep how to fold the napkin to wipe the mouth



time for the first course – salad


But this year everything fell into place with the help of the staff of Aston Imperial Bekasi Hotel & Conference Centre. Under the tutelage of Pak Vino, Food and Beverage manager of the hotel, the grades 7 and 8 students of the Cambridge Preparatory Classes of Global Prestasi School (GPS) were lectured on the dos and don’ts of western dining etiquette. The program included a brief lecture on its history followed by the very detailed rules in, for example, using the cutlery, eating the dinner roll, sipping the soup, using the napkin to wipe the mouth, body posture during eating, the plate codes, when to start eating, proper and improper attire, leaving the table to go to the restroom, behaviour for both men and women, and many more.  The students were immediately tested on what they heard from Pak Vino – they sat through a four-course lunch that included a beef salad as an appetizer, mushroom cappuccino with garlic crouton for soup, chicken cordon bleu as the entrée, and Imperial crispy banana with vanilla ice cream for dessert.


napkins on the lap



ready to tuck into the main course



waiting for everyone to get served the main course



buttering their dinner rolls like a pro



helping out to demonstrate how to hold the fork



dessert – Imperial crispy banana with vanilla ice cream


the entree – chicken cordon bleu

Prior to the seminar, the students were treated to an inside look at the hotel as they visited the various departments and sections of Aston Imperial. It was a good way to introduce them to the hospitality industry. Who knows? Some of them might end up as executive chef, food and beverage manager, head of housekeeping, executive manager, or general manager of a property in Indonesia or overseas in the not-so-distant future.

It was a sight to behold my students all looking grown up in their formal wear. There was pre-dining etiquette seminar briefing on what to wear and what not to wear. There were a lot of whining and groaning when they heard that sneakers, jeans, t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops were not considered appropriate attire for the seminar. Furthermore, I had to remind the ladies to practice walking in their heels if they intended to wear heels.

They’re all looking so grown-up.
a post-seminar picture of grade 7A with their goodie bags and their homeroom adviser, Mayang (second row, extreme left)

The table manners seminar for GPS was held on March 3. The four-hour-plus affair saw the hotel buzzing with activities the moment the parents dropped off their children who went home with goodie bags after. Screams and giggles floated through the lobby when everyone saw what each one was wearing.  But inside the Dynasty meeting room on the second-floor seriousness punctured with episodic laughter reigned as they navigated through the intricacies of following the dining etiquette outlined by Pak Vino. Rounding off the good experience was being told that the students were very well-behaved.

Additional photos by Mayang Anestia



School Days



The excruciating caterpillar sting could have been the deal breaker. I was oblivious to the caterpillar; it must have fallen from some trees where the bus parked a distance from the observatory when I was making my way up the bus. I was thrown into a panic when I suddenly felt this warming sensation on my back that spread to the nape and the ears, and then this unbearable itch. To complete the agony, a strip of red rashes covered my neck. Happily, the school’s counselor came prepared with her first aid kit and came to my rescue with minyak tawon (bee oil) to counter the itch.

Then there’s the very early call time of 5 am so as not to get stuck in the infamous Indonesian traffic and miss the queue at the observatory. Booking a taxi would have been convenient but the cab driver couldn’t find my flat so off I went to hail an angkot (a form of public transportation that looks like a mini-van). No such luck. I learned later on that they didn’t ply the road until after 6 from one of my eagle-eyed students who, fortunately, spotted me looking lost and forlorn, and gave me a ride to school.

Caterpillar sting and early call time, surprisingly, didn’t dispel my excitement in being one of the chaperones for the field study of the students of Global Prestasi School (GPS). Whatever you call it – field study or field trip – I have always had a strong predilection for such trips. It’s reminiscent of my old high school’s philosophy of learning by doing which meant not teaching and learning outside of the classroom. GPS has always been a staunch believer in exposing its students to all kinds of teaching methodologies and environments, which is why huge tourist buses parked within the school campus is commonplace. From elementary to senior high students, each GPS student has a treasure trove of field trip memories to last a lifetime.

The field study this year skewered four subjects – science, English (national and Cambridge curriculums), and Indonesian language – that would test the mettle of the students in terms of academic performance and character. Finally, I was free to chaperone, together with 13 of my colleagues and the principal, the grade 8 students from the national and Cambridge Preparatory classes, to two venues in Bandung viz. Bosscha Observatory and Jendela Alam.


First stop was Bosscha Observatorium, in Lembang, in West Java, which, to my chagrin, was a four-hour road trip from Kalimalang. It was imperative to be on the road by 530am to be able to get to the observatory before 10 am to book tour slots. The observatory, which sits on top of a hill, is a constant pull for visitors in and out of Indonesia for viewing the stars at night during the months of April until October. However, seeing stars has become a matter of luck these days because of the light pollution in the area as well as the presence of hotels and villa. Back in the 1930s, the land around the observatory was devoid of tenants and populated by trees.

Impressive was the word that came to mind when I saw the gargantuan telescope that a fully grown man can hang from.  Called Zeiss double refractor, the telescope is one of the five telescopes housed in the observatory which is hailed as the oldest observatory in the country. It took its inventor Karel Albert Rudolf Bosscha five years to finish constructing the telescope, starting in 1923.




Next stop was a little more rustic with its gardens, mini zoo, and vegetable patches. Called Jendela Alam (roughly translated as Nature Window), it’s roughly 25 minutes away from the observatory on a day when traffic is smooth, but it takes an hour plus when traffic gets snarled up. It’s what I’d call an open- nature laboratory where students have an up close and personal experience with special tailor-made nature activities.  For the students of GPS, they had three activities to complete namely, constructing a mini terrarium, making telur asin (salted egg), and dissection. Each activity lasted between 30 and 40 minutes. Each activity had its own group of facilitators hence the teacher-chaperones were free to wander around or have coffee with pisang goreng (banana fritters) at the coffee shop called Kedai Alam.





Classroom learning is de rigueur in the pursuit of knowledge, but learning out of the classroom is a welcome respite from the stifling effects of always staying in the classroom all the time. The surroundings make good points for observation and immediate application of theories by the students. And student interaction is enhanced – bonds are made stronger, mended or forged. As for the teachers, it’s a longed-for, although brief, break from marking papers, writing notes on the board, and pressing the button for the next PPT slide. It was time for them to breathe in a bit of fresh air to clear the mind.


School Days


the barongsai at Global Prestasi School

It never grows old no matter what happens or what people say. Every time I hear that the troupe will be coming to Global Prestasi School (GPS) to usher in the Chinese New Year, I am always filled with excitement. The barongsai, as the dragon or lion dance is called in Indonesia, never fails to ignite this child-like enthusiasm in me, banishing morose thoughts temporarily. The moment I hear that they’ve arrived, I’d drop what I’m doing and run to the main grounds of GPS to get a good spot to watch those colourful, swirling dragon-lions.

one of the dragon-lion prepping for the dance



This year is my year. According to Chinese astrology, I was born under the year of the rooster and if it’s your animal that is the ruling animal of the year, you are in for one auspicious year. To know that lady luck is your constant companion for a year – she won’t be making her presence greatly known until after 12 years – does one’s spirits more than some good. You feel this overwhelming sense of confidence commingling with positivity which leads to a general sense of well-being. Simply put, a force field of positive energy has been placed around you thus any sad or tragic news thrown your way by fate is met with more gumption than fear.



It was not like I was cowering in fear all throughout the 12 years lady luck was just hovering at the periphery as another animal took centre stage.  Looking back, several years were indeed fraught with tension and grief, but those years galvanised me taking me out of the rut I was in. I was admittedly chary – am still am – but those years prepared me slowly to take on the world again. One can say it prepared me for the year of the rooster, the year I see as the year of splendiferous moments and glorious feelings.


School Days


It is one of my most hated bugbears, but which seems all right with people. I can tolerate shyness because some people are really timid. However, answering like a Neanderthal, which, by the way, is my most hated bugbear, is something that shouldn’t be tolerated at all. Isn’t being able to carry a conversation or argue with confidence and logic a part of the reason why one goes to school? It has become a rarity these days to come across someone – millennial or not – with the gift of the gab because what you get, I’d observed, are monosyllabic or incoherent answers, signalling that speaking is moribund. Looking for a person with the gift of the gab is like looking for a charging station in a remote area. In this digital age, we look for someone who can answer simple questions and return simple greetings.

I am reminded of a student – not one of mine – who knocked, entered half way through the door without so much as a by-your-leave, and flourished the book she was holding.

Me: “Good morning. How can I help you?”

Student: “Huh?”

Me: “Who do you want to speak to?”

The student then dropped the book on the desk near the door and left.

Another incident went something like this, as I walked to the canteen:

Me: “Hi. Are your exams finished?”

Student: “Huh?”

Me: “Are you done with your exams?”

Student: “Ah.”

Fortunately, a friend of the student came to his rescue and answered that there was one more exam to go before they could call it a day.

It is cases like these that push me to want to take a semi-permanent leave from the world and be a hermit in Bali or Ora Island. It is unthinkable in my world to say “I don’t know” or “Huh”. If I genuinely don’t know the answer, I extrapolate. These times too I ponder on the importance of connecting when people are so disconnected. However, after spinning class, I am lucid and remember my duty to break bad habits, push students out of their comfort zones, and to make them speak with assuredness.

What is my solution in ascertaining that my students don’t look like the cat got their tongues? I go old school, baby. Holding steadfast to the philosophy that one must read in order to speak or write, my grade 10 International Program students at Global Prestasi School, before they all sit for their IGCSE exams from April to June, write a research paper in their English class – my class. I guide them through the whole process – topic, thesis statement and line of argument, note-taking, topic and sentence outlines, bibliography, interviews, and the drafts. Each step is monitored closely and each paper marked meticulously. They’re also constantly reminded about the repercussions of committing plagiarism and missing deadlines.

The panel of judges for the research paper oral exam is composed of teachers and former IGCSE students.
The panel of judges for the research paper oral exam is composed of teachers and former IGCSE students.

Writing, to the amateur, can be a daunting task, but it is not impossible. Professional writers can write an article in an hour or an academic paper in a few days, but this skill comes with aeons of practice. However, my students suffer from the delusion that writing a research paper can be done overnight, so they stupidly cram the night before falsely believing that their physical exertion can compensate for weak thesis statements, shoddy prose, jumbled up structure, and incorrect paper and bibliography formats. This over assuming attitude is dovetailed with a presumptuousness that the panel of judges for the oral defence won’t read their papers. Once the second draft is completed, each student undergoes an oral examination for 25+ minutes to test the soundness of the arguments, probe how he/she thinks, establish if he/she is the actual author, and, lastly, build the confidence in speaking before strangers while defending a stand. The oral defence is the ultimate preparation for the Cambridge Speaking exam wherein they are tested on their ability to answer logically and grammatically apart from pronouncing well. Moreover, it prepares them for the numerous interviews they will undergo while applying for admission to universities.

A demonstration of the Rejang Dewa dance by Rani Ardiyatna helps to make clear her  research paper on Balinese dances.
A demonstration of the Rejang Dewa dance by Rani Ardiyatna helps to make clear her research paper on Balinese dances.
Winsa Daniswara explains by being vegan is not a way to a healthy lifestyle.
Winsa Daniswara explains why being vegan is not a way to a healthy lifestyle.

I have been chagrined at some of my students’ failure in the research paper oral exam due to their behaviour particularly of their underestimation of the judges. And this is despite my forewarnings and the students before them. But some students have also done me proud as they held their ground before the stern judges and their barrage of questions. They certainly weren’t and won’t have to be asked, “Cat got your tongue?”

School Days


I belonged to a generation that preferred to stay behind the scene of a production. The very thought of facing an audience was nerve-wracking and intimidating. However, the generation of students at Global Prestasi School (GPS) take to the limelight like fish to water. There are still the shy students of the International Program (IP) who, like me, adamantly remain behind the curtains, but majority are very much at home strutting their stuff on stage. There is still the usual cajoling – bordering on threatening – for some to take the roles, but convincing isn’t that difficult. Peer pressure usually does the trick and the reluctance eventually turns into commitment to the roles.

The stage before opening night of "Of Gods and Mortals"
The stage before opening night of “Of Gods and Mortals” (photo by Sarah Huinda)

This year’s IP production was titled “Of Gods and Mortals”, a concept that was ruminated upon by the old theatre team and brought to life by this year’s re-energized crew. The point was to veer away from the commonplace variety show format of song-and-dance built against a flimsy storyline. Literature primarily mythology and epic became the anchor points of the scripts that the IP students worked on with a little help from the IP-English teachers who laid out the structure. Thus “Of Gods and Mortals was born: Looking at the past, before the supremacy of science, there was a distinct line between the gods and mortals. Life was simple: the deities did not tolerate the insubordination of people thus repercussions were expected, which were swift, with any act of defiance. In one of the most well-known mythologies, Greek mythology, the Olympians walked the Earth as humans and behaved like humans. They were petulant, narcissistic, irascible – name all the feelings of humans and the Greek deities exhibited them – and yet they demanded complete fealty. However, they weren’t exactly benevolent or reciprocal in their dealings with the mortals that they greatly pressed loyalty from. Similarly, in Egyptian mythology, the gods and goddesses assumed human form, walked the earth, and ruled ancient Egypt – as pharaoh – with the same tenacity as the Greeks. Analogously, the Hindu epic Ramayana, which has been adapted by Indonesia, the lives of deities and mortals were entwined in a saga of human values, war, defiance, brief reconciliation, and knowing one’s place. Meanwhile, the mortals tried to live as piously as they could amidst the vicissitudes of life. Their end goal was to lead peaceful lives vis-a-vis the omnipresent deities who had no qualms in wreaking havoc at the slightest whim. They knew their place in the hierarchy of life and abided by the dharma or divine rule.

Dress rehearsal: Isis telling Osiris her plan to dethrone Ra. (photo by Theresia Sabono)
Dress rehearsal: Isis telling Osiris her plan to dethrone Ra. (photo by Theresia Sabono)

December 12 was premiere night and Global Hall was filled to the rafters. Interest was stoked and curiosity piqued when the posters and banners started surfacing in and out of school weeks before the play date. The BBM group of the parents of the elementary students fuelled the fire of interest greatly with their incessant texting about the tickets – “Have you gotten your ticket?”, “Are you buying platinum (Rp200, 000) ticket?” – and suddenly tickets were selling like hot cakes. Tension, commingled with excitement, was mounting as premiere night drew near. Nerves were getting frayed as last-minute efforts were made to ensure everything was working – microphones, lights, sounds, and projector – and in place like the pillars on stage, the banner across the stage, and props within easy grasp of the actors. Then only a few hours were left before show time.

A scene from Parade of Gods and Goddesses - Isis and Osiris plotting against Ra
A scene from Parade of Gods and Goddesses – Isis and Osiris plotting against Ra
Sinuhe (foreground) does a fight dance in The Adventures of Sinuhe
Sinuhe (foreground) does a fight dance in The Adventures of Sinuhe

Showtime was exactly at 6pm much to the surprise of some of the audience. Unknown to or ignored by others, an IP production always starts on time. The mandatory prayer was delivered by grade 7A student, Hanna, which segued into the national anthem sang by sixth grader singing sensation Morei accompanied by the elementary violin ensemble. The hosts, Raine and Gisele, both from 7A, kept the crowd abreast of what was happening on stage aside from serenading them, together with Hanna, with a song from “Le Misérables”. And then “Of Gods and Mortals” premiered, opening first with Of Gods and Mortals and ancient Egyptian mythology and tales The Parade of Gods and Goddesses by grade 9A followed by The Adventures of Sinuhe by grade 8B.

The national anthem led by Morei, singing sensation from GPS Elementary, with the violin ensemble
The national anthem led by Morei, singing sensation from GPS Elementary, with the violin ensemble
Hosts Raine (left) and Gisele (far right) sing with their friend, Hanna
Hosts Raine (left) and Gisele (far right) sing with their friend, Hanna
The saman dance group of junior high take to the stage
The saman dance group of junior high take to the stage

Prior to the second act, choral speaking (or reading), was inaugurated in GPS. Picture a group of students on stage looking like a choir but they’re not going to sing. They are going to recite and act out literary pieces such as grade 8B’s performance of The Adventures of Sinuhe. The audience saw more of the choral speaking from grades 4 and 5 IP students. Naturally, singing, like playing badminton like a pro, is in the genes of Indonesians, so grade 8 students Karis, Lukas, and Khansa took to the stage with a song from Radiohead after.

Act 2 showcased Lord Ram and Hanuman from the Hindu epic Ramayana played by the elementary IP students followed by Greek mythology – Olympians vs. Mortals by grade 7A and Pandora and Ilk by grade 8A.

It's the elementary students' turn to shine in "Lord Ram and Hanuman".
It’s the elementary students’ turn to shine in “Lord Ram and Hanuman”.
A battle ensues between the Olympians and mortals in "Olympians vs Mortals"
A battle ensues between the Olympians and mortals in “Olympians vs Mortals”
The cast of "Pandora and Ilk" go through the final scene of their performance
The cast of “Pandora and Ilk” go through the final scene of their performance

“Of Gods and Mortals” ended three hours later to a rousing curtain call with everyone, actors, crew, and audience, moving to “Twerk it like Miley” (a unanimous choice by the students), and hamming it up for the numerous cameras flashing left, right, centre, and above.

Time for the final bow for "Of Gods and Mortals"
Time for the final bow for “Of Gods and Mortals”
A photo op for the IP team with the Director of GPS, Pak Widodo (in batik shirt)
A photo op for the IP team with the Director of GPS, Pak Widodo (in batik shirt)

(Photography by Samuel Jeruel | Additional photos by Theresia Sabono and Sarah Huinda)

School Days


It has been a week since the busy day at Global Prestasi School (GPS). October 24 saw the grounds of GPS bustling with activities, as it was Expo Day, a day that the school opens its doors to the denizens of Bekasi and beyond to give them the GPS experience. It is back after a brief hiatus as the organizers renewed their collective creative juices.

GPS Expo 2015 began with an academic activity of parents coming to collect their children’s report cards for the first quarter. While the teachers and parents engaged in tête-à-tête about the children’s progress, vendors, students, and staff were at the grounds preparing. Invited vendors were on prep mode, setting up their food stalls or their food trucks like the huge Chicken Town parked at the entrance and the Nula Chocolate Volkswagen van parked next to it. Similarly, the crew of Milk Bar was checking power connections for their blenders and stock of milk cartons for their vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry milkshakes. Students were also getting ready for their performance on stage situated next to the main lobby of the school. An all-female band called Selcouth, which is comprised of GPS’s International Program students from grade 9A, was going over their repertoire of local ditties. Not to be outdone was the music teacher of the junior high unit, Nando, and his friends who were also going through their song selection.

Fried chicken and moist chocolate cake from Nula were the big hits of the day at GPS Expo.
Fried chicken and moist chocolate cake from Nula were the big hits of the day at GPS Expo.
Let's give it up for Selcouth! (L-R: Josephine , Prita, Karyssa, Sharon and Olivia Risa)
Let’s give it up for Selcouth! (L-R: Josephine , Prita, Karyssa, Sharon and Olivia Risa)

Meanwhile, at the other part of the school grounds, cooking enthusiasts were readying themselves for Chef Andre’s cooking class. The GPS alumnus-turned chef was going to teach the participants how to prepare a healthy menu and last Saturday’s menu included guacamole, coleslaw, and extender-free chicken nuggets made from fresh chicken breast.

The day’s activities all got underway by 9am and buzzing until 2pm. Then it was time for its culminating activity, Fortals, the festival of arts organized by the senior high students of GPS, which was going to stage its main event following its pre-main events of futsal and basketball competitions held last August. Later in the evening three of the popular jazz artists of Indonesia were going to grace the Fortals Jazz Festival 2015 hosted by the popular YouTube personalities, SkinnyIndonesian24.

It was a night of luminous performances at the Fortals Jazz Festival 2015.
It was a night of luminous performances at the Fortals Jazz Festival 2015.

By 12 midnight, GPS was ready to call it a night – or day – and head back to the drawing board for the next Expo.

School Days


“I don’t even remember any of the words!” exclaimed Humaira Syifa Rizal, a smile crossing her face as memories of that day, September 2, came rushing in.

“Is that right? Why?” asked their ICAS-Writing teacher.

“It was that adrenaline rushing, Miss,” replied Ghibran who made it to the fifth round of the spelling bee.

Continued Ghibran: “Actually, I can’t believe it that I made it to the fifth round.”

“I remember ‘debris’,” Bryan chipped in while memories of that day where he reached the fourth round slowly clouded his mien.

“Wait, I remember ‘maneuver’,” said Syifa.

L-R:  American Spaces Spelling Bee 2015 contestants Bryan Christly, Humaira Syifa Rizal, and Muhammad Fikry Ghibran with classmates Nadia Iga and William Help
American Spaces Spelling Bee 2015 contestants (left-right) Bryan Christly, Humaira Syifa Rizal, and Muhammad Fikry Ghibran with classmates Nadia Iga and William Help (extreme right)
Syifa and her two classmates, Bryan Septiano Christly and Muhammad Fikry Ghibran, were selected from the entire batch of grade 11 students of Global Prestasi School to take part in the American Spaces Spelling Bee 2015, which was held at the Information Resource Centre (IRC) at the US Embassy. The GPS triumvirate went to head-to-head with more than 30+ student-spellers from 14 private and public schools. According to GPS English teacher cum chaperone, Theresia Widi K, IRC Director Oktiviane Sinaga shared it was the first time that the centre had participated in a spelling bee and that the overall winner will be the representative of IRC Jakarta in the nationwide competition to be held on September 22.

Each student, related Theresia Widi K, had five rounds to compete in against other students from other schools as well as their own school mates. Each student-candidate had to spell the word the emcee said correctly within two minutes until only three contestants were left viz. Syifa and the students from Labschool and SMAK Penabur 1. Theresia noted that Syifa had a calm demeanor and quickly outdid her foes. Syifa proved she was definitely the bee’s knees when her competitor fumbled with the word ‘squirrel’ and she breezed through the final round with the word ‘blizzard’.

Humaira Syifa Rizal qualifies for the final round of the American Spaces Spelling Bee 2015
Humaira Syifa Rizal qualifies for the final round of the American Spaces Spelling Bee 2015
Shall Syifa emerge as the Queen Bee of spellers on September 22? GPS is undoubtedly rooting for its Queen Bee. Go, Syifa! Go, Syifa!

School Days


Olivia Haura, Andita, Syifa, Prita, and Yunia of 9A are all set for a night of fun.
Olivia Haura, Andita, Syifa, Prita, and Yunia of 9A are all set for a night of fun.

There really is something salutary with breaking the routine every now and then and letting your hair down. For the grade 9A students of Global Prestasi School, who are enrolled in the International Program (IP), it meant taking a break from the books and mock exam sessions. The grade 9A IP students are facing four exams this year which begins with the ICAS Maths and Science exams from the University of South Wales this September. This is followed by the National Exam (locally known as ujian nasional) from the Ministry of Education sometime in May and a few weeks later they will be sitting for Cambridge’s First Certificate of English exam. It is interesting to note that it’s going to be a long school year for the grade 9A because they don’t get to go on summer break until after their FCE exam which is sometime in June unlike the non-IP students who are already on vacation after their National Exam in May.

The ladies and gentleman of GPS-IP are all geared up.
The ladies and gentleman of GPS-IP are all geared up.
The other teams aren't missing on the action as well.
The other teams aren’t missing on the action as well.

The last Saturday of August had the students trooping to Laser Game Indonesia on No. 16 Kemang Raya for some laser fun. Aside from a night of class camaraderie, it was also a reward for their hard work during their Preliminary English Test they sat for last school year, as everyone passed the exam.

The fun begins when, after the list of players has been handed to the “officer” (read: staff of Laser Game Indonesia), and everyone lines up before the weapons room. Each player is assigned a number which corresponds to a vest and a laser gun. Once inside the blue room (the lights are blue) each soldier straps on the gear with the help of the crew of Laser Game. The target points, as indicated on the vest which lights up when hit by the laser, are the chest, back, shoulders, and the gun. But before they head into battle in the dark room, there’s always time for a photo op. Once that’s done the games are on. Divided into two teams – red and green – and gear strapped on, each team tries to outdo each other in the world of make-believe laser marksmanship.

the ladies of IP

Adults are into welfies too.
Adults are into welfies too.
Green tea frappuccino caps the laser game night.
Green tea frappuccino caps the laser game night.

Starbucks Kemang Sky 2As for the post-laser game, after the students had gone home with their parents or their drivers, it was time for the adults to chillax at Starbucks, Kemang Sky which – thankfully – is open 24 hours on Fridays and Saturdays.

Photography by Sam Jeruel

School Days


invites to commencement exercise 2015June is the month of commencement exercises in Indonesia unlike in the Philippines, as graduations were held in March, which marks the start of a new school year. Schools in Indonesia are agog with excitement weeks before graduation after almost 10 months of toiling in the classroom. First, the ceremony signifies a new chapter in their lives, and, second, they get to go on a long well-deserved break overseas or otherwise.

Global Prestasi School in Bekasi, Kalimalang hosts three commencement exercises annually, one for each of its unit viz. elementary, junior high school, and senior high school. Before the opening of its Global Theatre, the ceremonies were held at either the Global Hall or at the nearby hotel of which at that time was only Hotel Horizon. Now, the school proudly hosts all commencement exercises in Global Theatre, with each unit choosing its preferred date in June following the announcement of the results of the national exam (locally known as ujian nasional) by the Ministry of Education. The students of junior high and senior high donned their togas on June 12 while the elementary students are set to don theirs on June 26.

At 8 in the morning, my junior high students – those enrolled in the Cambridge classes – were a sight to behold in their shiny blue togas and caps, million-dollar smiles on their faces. Soon, they were marching into the theatre – teachers, led by the principal Yulie Tan, first entered the hall then the students as the audience (parents, school officials, choir members) stood at their seats to welcome them. Interspersed with song numbers and speeches by invited alumnus and parent, the highlight of the ceremony was the capping ceremony. Each student had his/her turn to shine on stage against the huge backdrop featuring their name and several pictures capturing their growth through the three years in junior high. Tempus fugit! From the chubby awkward children that entered grade 7, they had grown into tall, svelte – even muscular – confident teenagers ready to take on senior high school.

The graduates of Global Prestasi School Junior high before the march
The graduates of Global Prestasi School Junior high before the march
Assembled and waiting for the cue to start walking into Global Theatre
Assembled and waiting for the cue to start walking into Global Theatre
Marching into Global Theatre
Marching into Global Theatre
A song from the teachers to the graduates (Photo by Elizabeth Puella)
A song from the teachers to the graduates (Photo by Elizabeth Puella)

Meanwhile, my grade 12 students, those enrolled in the IGCSE in their 10th year, occupied the hall at 6 in the evening. They were hardly recognizable in their shiny black togas and caps, as they cleaned up well from the scruffy-looking students in their bedraggled uniforms and sleepy mien. I noted that I felt more emotional at the senior high commencement exercise than I was in the morning. I chalked it up to one reason: my grade 12 students are going to fly the nest soon. They are going to spread their wings and see the world for themselves. They are now going to be faced with the vicissitudes of the real world to test their mettle. Part of the sentimentality came from the overwhelming pride I felt surging in me as my former IGCSE student, Kelvin Theandro Gotama, swept up several the best subject awards and, the icing on the cake, was named the best student of the year. Bravo!

The best student of the year - Kelvin Theandro Gotama
The best student of the year – Kelvin Theandro Gotama
Grade 11 students performing the Lenggang Nyai, a Betawai Dance
Grade 11 students performing the Lenggang Nyai, a Betawai Dance
Senior high students perform the saman dance at the commencement exercise of senior high school
Senior high students perform the saman dance at the commencement exercise of senior high school
The teachers are not far behind - they've got a song for the graduates too.
The teachers are not far behind – they’ve got a song for the graduates too.
the graduating batch of SY2014-2015 of SMA Global Prestasi School
the graduating batch of SY2014-2015 of SMA Global Prestasi School

Commencement exercises are indeed emotional events for every teacher, student, and parent. It presages simultaneously an ending and a beginning, new challenges and solutions, and new hurts and victories. Carpe diem, graduates!

School Days


IMG_0361End-of-school parties are ubiquitous for this generation of junior high and senior high students. And malls are very much in the black during the scorching months of May and June when boutiques have hordes of teenaged girls going through their racks of RTW dresses and trying on endless strappy stilettos to see which pair would go with the chosen attire for the farewell party. Let us not forget the hair salons that are booked solid for hair and make-up sessions. Rayon from Hair Code at Grand Metropolitan Mall had back-to-back sessions during the last week in May.

Farewell party is what the end-of-school parties are commonly referred to in Indonesia. It also doubles up as a prom which you only get to know about when the Prom King and Queen are announced. Unlike two decades ago, there is no David Pomeranz’s “King and Queen of Hearts”, the unofficial anthem of proms in the Philippines, playing in the background when the announcement is made.

The junior high unit of Global Prestasi School (GPS) kicked off June with fun and entertainment. The outgoing grade 9 students decided on holding their farewell party titled Verenigen Hastha, or the eighth batch, on the first day of June at the Cinema XXI Lounge. My apprehension was all for naught, as the venue proved to be more than fitting. It was, in fact, perfect. Traditionally, hotels in Jakarta are the preferred venues for reasons that are associated with the words grand, classy, and formal. Given the exorbitant price tag that is attached to renting a ballroom or a room smaller than a ballroom, the principal, Yulie Tan, broke away from tradition and challenged the committee members of the farewell party to scour every nook and cranny of Bekasi for a suitable and reasonably priced venue. Who said GPS students are ones to walk away from a challenge? They meet them head on and with panache.

Verenigan Hastha in full swing
Verenigen Hastha in full swing
Getting the par-tay started
Getting the par-tay started

Cinema XXI Lounge is inside Mega Bekasi Mall, one of the malls within close proximity to GPS. On a good day (read: no traffic), a taxi ride is a breezy 20-25- minute ride. It’s even breezier if you take the local transport angkot and cheaper. At Rp3, 500 – 4,000, you’re at Mega Bekasi in 15 minutes. For parents picking up their children after the party in the evening, it’s not a taxing drive from home to Mega Bekasi unlike when the pickup point is in Jakarta which usually spells a two or three hour plus ride back and forth depending on the traffic.

The lounge is spacious – one doesn’t feel hemmed in – that a fun photo booth fits in perfectly within the floor area of the lounge and which was buzzing with adults and students hamming it up for their keepsakes. The stage at the centre has a huge screen that was clear and the sound system was in tip-top shape. None of the musicians had to spend minutes tuning their instruments; there were no embarrassing microphone problems; and the videos screened brilliantly.

Proud teacher - my students taking to the stage
Proud teacher – my students taking to the stage

A common bugbear for people who are organising parties is the service crew. They can be blatantly incompetent and indifferent at times. But, much to my surprise, the Cinema XXI Lounge service crew was in fighting form. No glass was left half filled; the chafing dishes were never empty and cutlery were not lacking; chairs were cleared for students when needed; and courtesy was the order of the night.

Food can make or break a party and, fortunately, the buffet table at Verenigan Hastha was a cornucopia of culinary delights fit for gourmands. Indonesian cuisine is always something to feast on but when you see them in the cafeteria every day, it becomes commonplace. Not this particular buffet table – it was a fusion of European, Western, and far-from-ordinary Indonesian dishes from appetiser, main course to dessert.

And they danced through the night
And they danced through the night

As a guest, the transformation from roguish to respectable impressed me. Unabashedly biased, I was bursting with pride at seeing my students at the forefront of the affair as committee members, emcees, party hosts, and performers, who brimmed with glittery aplomb all night. They also cleaned up, I noted.