A Filipino-Australian journalist gave new meaning to ''balikbayan'' when she turned part of her discovery trip to Palawan into a writing workshop for primary school children.

Michelle Baltazar, editor of the Australian Filipina website and broadcaster of Radio Sandigan, treated pupils at El Nido Central School to some "professional" talk and writing exercises.

Ms Baltazar spent seven days in El Nido and three days in Puerto Princesa, on the Philippines' western island of Palawan vacationing as part of her 'More Fun In Palawan' feature-story series assignment for her website.

It was her second visit to the Philippines officially as a journalist on holiday. In 2009, Ms Baltazar went on assignment as a member of the Filipino Press Group of Sydney, with airfares and accommodation provided by Philippine Airlines' regional manager Arnul Pan and Philippine Department of Tourism attache Lito Jones.

December's assignment was funded by her website.

"I conducted an observation and five-minute talk with the Grade 2 school children followed by a two-hour writing workshop with eight of the school’s top students from Grade 5 and Grade 6," she said.

"Earlier, the school's English teacher gave a lecture on pronouns - he, she, and it - to around 40 pupils in the one class.

"I asked the teacher to name the top 25 students, each of whom I presented 50 pesos prize from me. The other pupils received 20 pesos each.

As part of Ms Baltazar's writing workshop for pupils in Grade 5 and Grade 6, she lectured them on writing a feature story, followed by a writing exercise.

"The topic I suggested was: ‘Why I Love El Nido’. I gave them 15 minutes to write a one-page piece on the topic," she said. "Then I workshopped all eight submissions, reading each out to them and giving them tips on what they did right.

Baltazar later asked pupils what their career aspirations were. Their answers included becoming accountants, flight attendants, and doctors.

"I told them that regardless of what career they aimed for, being able to communicate and write well is a skill that will put them in good stead, hence the benefit of the writing workshop."

At the end of the workshop, she handed each pupil 100 pesos, and 240 pesos for the best article of the day which went to Francis Samson.

"All the articles were good but Francis scored extra points for revealing something that would have been a very big deal in his age: "I had a crush, but I'm not telling my parents."


Names of the workshop attendees:

Francis Samson
Ken Fritz Arnold Rey
Anthea Marie Alcantara
Evia Rose Ulanday
Ross Marianne Alcantara
Roszelle Olmedo
Reunice Frances Buna
Elaine Kaye Seastres

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