Humans of Beacon is a photo essay project by Ms. Emma Buhain, a 12th grader at Beacon Academy. Similar in concept to that of Brandon Stanton's Humans of New York, this online project will feature selected students, teachers and staff of the Academy.

These photos are meant to show certain scenes or people around the school that are interesting or worth sharing. We hope you enjoy these images and the slice of life look at our community.

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"Ever since I was a little kid, I have always enjoyed singing. I wasn't afraid to show off my voice even if it meant that I had to sing 24/7. It was a hobby I enjoyed doing, but I never considered doing it professionally until a single event in music class in Grade 9: my first concert time.

Throughout my first concert time, I was extremely terrified. But part of me was confident, and thought, "I'm good, it's no problem, I'll impress my teacher.” I was overwhelmed when I first received constructive criticism, but I was also relieved because without it, I would have kept on thinking I was as good as I could get. 
You see, that day was a life-changing event. Without it, and the help I got from my teacher, I would never have been motivated to improve. My music teacher is my mentor both in and out of music, and if I could take classes with her again, I would! Ever since that day, all I wanted to do was get better, and I never would have gotten better without music class in general! That class made me realize that I had a passion for singing. I started getting into things I hated as a child: musicals, opera, and performing. Now, singing is a big part of me. With my voice, I want to entertain all kinds of people, and never stop improving."

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The goal of the 10th grade student’s [pictured left] personal project, Bikeverywhere, was to design and build a low-cost bicycle. His output was to build the first prototype, and he decided that in order to test it out, he would donate it to someone to see if the bicycle he built would be able to serve its purpose. 

What's the story behind your personal project? (To left)

"Cycling is my hobby, and having built a bicycle before, I wanted to do something related to cycling and building a bicycle for a good cause. My original intention was to design and build a bicycle meant for someone else, and I wanted to donate the bicycle I made so that I could be sure that the bicycle could really meet its intended purpose. At the same time, I wanted to do something for the Beacon community while tailoring my project to my interests and capabilities. I went through a long and straightforward interview process. I asked my interviewees about how having a bicycle could help them and improve different parts of their lives. Of course, I also used the interviews to make sure that whoever would receive the bike knew how to ride and maintain bicycles. At the end of the interviewing process, I chose Kuya Boyet because I thought he would benefit from the bike the most. I also really valued the constructive feedback he gave me towards the end of my project. I'm happy about how Kuya Boyet enjoys riding the bike, and that it has helped him get around to places other than school. Now that I know that Kuya Boyet is able to use the bicycle this way, I'm confident that it fulfills a purpose that might be even better than the simpler goal I had at the start of my project."

How would you get to school before you started using the bike? (To right)

"It was so tiring. I would have to walk because there was no shuttle. I would also ride with other trucks, commute, and ride tricycles along the way. I would have to pass from Balibago going to Cabuyao. This is the route I would take back and forth. Once I had a bike, I was able to save a lot of money because I didn’t have to spend on transportation fees anymore. I was also able to get home earlier and avoid the traffic that comes with commuting. Now that I have a bike, I can easily pass through the sides of roads and take advantage of shortcuts. Without a bike, it would take around 3-4 hours to go to school and then go home. Now, it takes around one hour and I can pace myself while biking. At first, I got tired and my muscles were sore after biking. But now, I’m used to it and it really does takes less time for me to go to school and to go home."    

HumansofBeacon"This photograph was taken in Davao, my hometown. I wanted to take pictures of the sunset, and I knew that the bangkeros would come out of the river and into the sea at around that time. I waited for them for thirty minutes. I was taking pictures of the sunset with the bangka the whole time until sundown. The sunset on that day was one of the brightest ones I had ever seen. The water was even calm, and usually it’s a bit rough. Sunsets are always going to be different. I love photography because you can capture moments, and you can’t really see a good sunset every day.

I want to go to an arts college, and I want to use my pictures to show my culture, where I come from, and what I see every day. I don’t want to show just the beautiful side of the Philippines, but also poverty so that I can help others through my photos and art. I prefer visual arts to tasks like reading and writing. I love photography, painting, mixed media work, watercolor, and the whole process of experimenting with different mediums. I want to keep doing all kinds of art after I graduate because I love creative work."


Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 10.04.32 am“We’ve been friends for almost two years now. The first time we met was at new student orientation. We were both new kids, so naturally, we stuck together. Many people believe that new kids will stay together at first, and will eventually find their own social groups as they find their way around school. That wasn’t the case with us at all. In fact, it was pretty much the exact opposite. Instead of growing apart from each other, we actually got closer. 

We’re trying to figure out what to say because honestly, we have no idea how our friendship happened. It just did. We’ve done a lot together, from getting lost in amusement parks to watching long ballets. We don’t have a lot of interesting stories to tell you yet, but as of now, we mostly try to get each other through the days. We balance each other out, and as cliche as it sounds, we both know that it really does help to have a friend who you can talk to about pretty much anything without the fear of being judged.”


IMG_0217"Psychology, as we all know, is the study of human behavior. But for me, it goes far beyond that. Psychology is not just about diagnosing disorders or knowing what’s happening in a person’s mind. It’s really about understanding people, and accepting each one's uniqueness. I think that anyone can become a psychologist in his or her own way. Psychology is also about finding ways to help other people, so you don’t even need to be a psychology student or major to learn how to relate well with others and give advice. Anyone can practice psychology in their own way as long as they have the ability to be sensitive, to empathize, and to care for others."

Processed with VSCOcam with m3 preset“As a teenager, I would spend hours on social media scrolling through pictures of people wearing beautifully designed clothes. I would tell myself that one day, people would be wearing clothes from my own label. At 14, I would style all of my clothes by myself, and I tried my best to have fun while keeping up with the latest trends.  Once, I managed to make an impact on the style of a friend who used to wear just printed shirts and plain pullovers. She now wears bohemian tops and carries bucket bags, and it’s so interesting for me to see that her style and means of self-expression through clothes have completely changed from what they used to be.

Currently, all of my fashion and design-related ideas are channeled into a software that helps me make 3D models of my creations. Now that I’m 15, I try my very best to support my passion by using my own money to buy my clothes. All of the clothes and cosmetics I own are purchased with my own money. I also try my very best to play around with makeup looks and style a single piece of cloth in multiple ways. It was hard in the beginning, but after awhile I realized that my passion for fashion made my life a lot better.

My love for fashion is such a huge part of who I am. Above all, it has led me to construct my own personal belief that life is what you make of it. If I could give anyone advice based on what I learned from my love for fashion, it would be, “Do what you love and love what you do. Express yourself using your own medium and never forget to love yourself.”


Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 12.11.26 pm"In choosing a target community for Project Hyacinth, I had to keep in mind a target community directly affected by flash floods from overflowing bodies of water in order to ensure that the project made a direct, environmental impact.  My mom suggested Marikina City to narrow down our choices. She lived in Marikina for a part of her childhood, knowing full well about the rising, annual floods that drowned several communities. Even though we had a city in mind, I didn't know exactly how I could contact a village and introduce the project then and there. I wanted to ask for help from Gawad Kalinga, and when I was able to get in touch, they were more than happy to help me. 

Gawad Kalinga is a non-profit organization that aims to eliminate poverty for millions of families in the Philippines. They do so by starting villages and livelihood programs that encourage productivity among the members of the community. GK had plenty of riverside communities all over Luzon, with one quite nearby here in Laguna. But I told them I wanted to start with Marikina. Marikina is known not only for being dominated by the annually overflowing river, but also for the water hyacinths that are evergreen in its river all year long. Luckily, they had the right community that matched: GK Camacho Nangka. Lo and behold, a community living right next to the Marikina River, and was in need of a livelihood program. Upon interviewing and meeting with the members, I found that the project suited the needs of the community. They described the conditions of the evacuation centers after each horrible typhoon and the states of their houses and properties.

The project was entered in a Harvard-run competition called Igniting Innovation Summit: A Village To Raise A Child. This is a competition that chooses five sustainable social enterprises by young people for development, training, and mentoring. Project Hyacinth was a finalist in the competition, but did not win. Nevertheless, a training session was held in the community last month, and two more sessions are planned before the end of the year. By February 2016, the project aims to finish training for weaving place mats. Then, by March, the members will be trained to weave a big banig in preparation for the typhoon season. The project, all in all, has been a great success, and its success will extend farther than just my Personal Project. I hope to benefit the livelihoods of the people of GK Camacho Nangka through this project, and hopefully, change their lives as a whole."

IMG_8662Why did you decide to teach English?

I wanted to be a poet. That’s why I studied English literature. I always thought that teaching would be a part of it in some way.

Can you tell me about a time in your life when you experienced the most change?

The biggest personal change would be the concrete: moving from the United States to the Philippines, and moving from an international school to an international school in the Philippine context. And then I moved from left-wing political activism to having a drastic shift in my worldview and philosophical viewpoint. I went from the left to trying to release or let go of ideological concerns. Now I'm concerned with understanding how humans work and how life works.

If you could give advice to a large group of people, what would it be?

The main advice would be to try to find out who you are. At first I rejected all the cliches I heard like “Trust yourself, be yourself, believe in yourself” because they were so simple. But that’s really what the advice is. So, believe in yourself, have confidence, and remember that you have a right to exist and be happy. It’s difficult to follow this though, because everybody else has ideas of who you should be. Try to find out who you are as soon as possible, and remember that identity is not a fixed thing.


"My love for science is not something innate. Yes, I can recall identifying the different types of clouds when I was in second grade but I only fell in love with science when I got to learn more about how traits are inherited from one generation to the next. The complexity of genes and the countless possibilities of a different version of myself intrigued me the most. At that point, I realized that a career in science was not far-fetched. Although, initially, I thought the subject was all memory work (and I hate memorizing), I soon realized that biology requires a lot more than that. You need to be able to apply what you know in as many contexts as possible.

As a science teacher, I try to stress the importance of application as well as inquiry. For me, a good student needs to be an inquirer. Since the construction of knowledge usually starts with a question, it is imperative for students to ask questions (may it be good or silly). Hopefully, this will lead to a lot of “light bulb” moments. At the end of the day, it’s not just the content that I would like my students to learn. More importantly, I want my students to develop a habit and the enthusiasm to seek new scientific knowledge and apply them.

My experiences as a teacher have taught me that I need to be patient and be deliberate in situations before acting on them. Good thing my other interest, which is chess, requires the same thing. Chess has shown me the importance of flexibility and effective planning. Failure to adjust in game situations, just like in a classroom setting may lead to failure. In the end, it’s really critical to know the intricacies of a game or a subject that you’re interested in in order for you to appreciate its true beauty."

IMG_7720-2-2"I joined Model United Nations (MUN) when I was a freshman, and the club brought out an interest in political science that I didn’t know I had. At first I thought I wanted to focus on animal science and other branches of the natural sciences like chemistry and biology. But I've been torn ever since I joined MUN because I discovered that I’m so interested in international relations and topics like country policies and government systems. Debating has taught me so much about how countries interact with each other, especially when allied countries come together to create resolutions or when the viewpoints of certain countries tend to clash. That’s when intense debate starts. I didn’t know about any of these things before joining MUN, and I never used to speak in class discussions. I was usually the one who people would call on and encourage to speak. Now, after being in MUN for almost two years, I’m able to take a stand and I’m the one who starts talking on my own. MUN has shown me that I’m more than capable of forming my own ideas - all I need to do is share them and be confident in order for my voice to be heard."

IMG_3059“I went to this camp called Camp Oochigeas, which is a camp for children with cancer. When I had cancer, I thought that nobody I knew would ever be able to relate to me because I didn’t know anyone my age with the same experiences. But the moment I set foot in that camp, I realized that I was never really alone. That little bubble of isolation I thought I had… It was suddenly nonexistent. I met so many people from countries all over Europe and Asia who shared the same experiences with cancer. Some of them were even younger than me! 

After my time at camp, I realized that I was never really alone. Everything I learned provoked me to think deeply about how I wanted to deal with myself and with others in the future. As of now, I want to let people know that even though they are struggling, they are never really alone. So I try to make it my goal to help as many people in as many ways as possible. I want to put myself out in the world by helping others. People are social creatures and I don’t think anyone deserves to be alone at all.”  

IMG_7392"As a teacher, I think the easiest thing to teach would be the subject matter. So throughout my 17 years as a teacher, I was challenged by the fact that I needed to teach my students some intangibles in life. I asked myself - How do you teach friendship? How do you teach generosity? How do you teach faith? Trust? My belief is that in order to teach all of these things, you need to be generous. What you get out of being a teacher can be very minimal, but what you see your students learning, asking questions, being attentive, and showing interest, you really feel rewarded. You feel rewarded especially when you see your students becoming who you hoped they would be through whatever it is that you teach. That’s our hope as teachers - that somehow, something’s growing in the hearts of our students. 

I’ve been a teacher for a long, long time and I want to give my students good memories that they can carry with them throughout their lives. I care for my students and want them to experience both victories and failures that will make them better people. As a teacher, I’d rather have my students experience failure now so that they learn and know better in the future. Because that’s how I learned. I place a lot of importance on how I overcame moments in which I failed as a person, as a teacher, as a son, and as a friend. I experienced a lot of failure in my life and now I can teach because of all the experiences I’ve had.

I wake up at 3:30 AM to teach every weekday, and I’ve never not wanted to go to work upon hearing my alarm go off in the morning. This is how I know that I’m in the right place and that my heart is where it should be. What I get from my students is priceless - very little things like affirmation, gratitude, and the sparks in their eyes when they’ve realized something in my class. The real challenge for me as a teacher, or even as a human being, is to be a loving person. Because sometimes it’s difficult. I know that deep in my heart I am in this world not because of my ability to give and love, but because of that constant struggle in my life to prove that I am a person who can give and who can love. And that’s why I continue to teach - because I care. I don’t think you can teach if you’re not a caring person. For me, teaching is not just a job but really a vocation and a way of life." 

IMG_7357"Writing changed the way I see the world. Believe it or not, the first short story I ever wrote was based on Taylor Swift’s ‘You Belong With Me’ music video and I thought it was the worst thing to come into existence. I still laugh at it when I reread it. But I kept writing. I couldn’t stop. I would write poems at the back of school notebooks, and short stories on sheets of pad paper. Whenever I was sad, all I did was rip out pieces of paper and write desperately. Whenever I would succeed in anything, I wrote a song of rejoicing. Now, writing is part of my identity. I write everything, and sometimes I even write about people. I love it, I really do. You can take the girl away from the words, but you can’t take the words away from the girl. Whoever I am, and whoever I will be, writing will be a part of that.”  


Image-1"Kapit-bisig tungo sa Kaunlaran ng Beacon" (or "KKB" for short) is a club I started with the intention of empowering students to pursue activities and projects that help build the holistic students that Beacon hopes to develop.  We are often given opportunities to grow and develop but are limited by our resources and think to ourselves "if only."  We want to change that and get people to say instead "I can, and I will".   

My club-turned-business hopes to put our business management skills into practice and design resource-generating activities in order to come up with the resources students need to pursue such opportunities.  We plan to meet with student-leaders of clubs, varsity teams, or other projects to develop business strategies that will help them achieve the very goals they established when they started their organization.  Whether it's more outreach programs or larger-scale competitions, we believe that it's these opportunities that help a community develop their culture.  

We want to help Beacon develop our own, at a scale greater  than ever before.  Some organizations are smaller than others, and as such it is more difficult for them to generate the necessary resources.  However, they still represent a facet of Beacon culture just as important as the rest, so why shouldn't they be able to represent themselves just as well as the other groups?  To me, KKB means just that - solidarity towards the development of Beacon.  It means people working together for the betterment of the whole community, because together we can accomplish much more.”  


"I've always stood by four things: respect, reciprocity, discipline, and transparency. I've realized these things as I was studying psychology and in a much more sophisticated way throughout my career in the academe that I've had for almost 10 years. I think that in any situation you encounter in life, you always have to have respect towards other people. And when you respect them, it comes back to you in the form of reciprocity. This is how I deal with my students - when they treat me in a positive way, I also try to give that back to them. Secondly, discipline is necessary to be able to live a happy life. When you have rules and discipline in whatever it is that you do, things are less complicated. Lastly, there's transparency. For me, it's always better to be honest and transparent about what you want to do instead of being fake to others." 


"My artwork is called 'Peace, Bro!' It’s meant to convey the message of peace through a 60-70s era type of graffiti that the hippies used during the Vietnam War. I made it due to recent events such as ISIS and the Mamapasano clash and related it to how the hippies made art at that time." 

Audrey Buhain (Gr 9 Art)

"People who don't own any pets usually say that they're just animals and that it's impossible to love them as you would love your family. People who do own pets would say this is completely wrong. If you do own a pet and actually care for it, you'll know it's hard work. You can't just leave them alone in a cage for eight hours and only walk them twice a day. Keep that up and your pet is going to be miserable. My dogs can't stay inside the house because of my parents, so I walk and play with them five times a day at most for about 20 to 30 minutes. That's 150 minutes a day of dog time. Because of the bond that's formed from all these walks and play sessions, they start becoming like children to you, and you become their caretakers. After all these years I've learned that the word 'pets' can take on a much greater meaning if you truly love them."


"I love music, but I'm not sure where my love for music came from. It could have been hereditary, but my liking for it most likely sprouted from the experience of performing. I love singing. It's meaningful because it's not a responsibility for me, but a passion. I honestly have no idea what I want to be when I grow up, but the only thing I'm sure of is that I want music to be a part of the rest of my life."


"I never saw any reason why there shouldn't be equality between genders. When the personal project was introduced, I went about it thinking I had everything figured out. I've never been so glad to say that I was wrong. Voices of Eve was not only my real form of action towards overcoming discrimination against women, but it was also a huge learning experience about equality and about myself. I realized how young I was and how there is still so much I don't know. It represents so many first for me and I've been moving forward little by little ever since." 


"How long have the three of you been friends?"

"Since the 3rd grade!"

"What's the weirdest thing the three of you have eaten together?"

"(Center): It included Mayonnaise"

"Okay, hold that thought... What do you three like most about each other?"

(Center): "She's very expressive and she's so down to earth."

(Right): I like his really funny creativity and she is... well, there are no words to describe her."

(Center): :She's very unique. She brings a special spice into every situation."

(Left): She's just amused by everything I do and he really likes to get to know people."


"My mom was a teacher and my dar was a teacher, and my sister and I are all teachers. I teach Spanish because my grandmother was Spanish and every since I was young, I marveled at the fact that she could speak another language. The sound of Spanish was beautiful to me. Hearing it when I was still young, my grandmother taught me words and phrases in Spanish. I carried this on until high school at ISM where I chose to study Spanish. That carried on until university and I'm still teaching Spanish now. Spain is a beautiful place. I would recommend it to anybody. Speaking in Spanish, meeting a lot of people, and living with a family... those are all good memories." 


"So who's that in your drawing?"

"Well, seeing as the only words there are 'Oliver Sykes…'"

"What does he do?"

"He's the frontman of a British metal core band called 'Bring Me The Horizon.’”

"Why do you like heavy metal?"    

"I love listening to rock and heavy metal because I love the sound of the music. Just listening to heavy metal in the morning and hearing the guitars and the drums come together gets me pumped. The lyrics are also very meaningful despite the stereotypical notion that heavy metal is all growls, screams, drums, and guitar, and that it's really a bunch of noise with no clear lyrics. That's not heavy metal actually. That's death metal or death core. The lyrics tend to be a lot more meaningful than most of the mainstream songs I know because they aren’t all about partying and consumerism. It might not seem to be that way at first, but the lyrics actually talk about problems that anyone could have. You'd be surprised." 

David Griffits

"What's the best thing you've done recently?"

"Once I had to build a bike generator for a science fair and for a community outreach project. So when you pedal on the bike, it activates a car motor, generates electricity, and goes through positive and negative wires that are attached to a car battery. Then, you attach a transformer to the car battery, and you can charge whatever you want with it.

Also, I make dolphin noises." 


"Where are you thinking of going for college?"

"Ooh, that's a hard one. I'm torn between going to Canada or Australia. That totally depends on my grades."

"What are you thinking of taking up?"

"Marine Biology! I'm really excited for it. I've always wanted to study the ocean and it really makes me want to help out with what's going on with the environment nowadays." 


"I love food!" 


“I’m not human until I’ve had my first sip of coffee for the day. Without my coffee, it’s like I’m floating on air. I can’t process my thoughts and I’m cranky without it.”


“What kind of books do you like to read?”
“I love books about history and general information. I like to read about the past and about current events. I’m not into romantic books and fiction. I’m interested in what’s real and what’s happening nowadays.” 

human-1"I like to sleep on the bus." 

human-2"How was your day?"

"You need to ask a better question to stimulate my mind."