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Raising super bright kids ‘enjoyable, humbling’

November 27, 2007 05:34:00
TJ Burgonio
Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines -- You’d think Japanese businessman Koh Tamura and his Filipino wife Cecile would be used to it by now -- being parents to gifted children.

Their eldest child, Cy, 17, composes music at random and Yosh, 10, can memorize the contents of a book while Aya, 6, solves puzzles with ease.

Like most parents, the Tamura couple marvel at their kids’ exceptional abilities and revel in their accomplishments. Koh, 71, tries to downplay their children’s gifts, but his wife Cecile, 46, talks animatedly about them.

“Being a curious person who wants to perpetually learn about things that I don’t know, I should be glad that I have these kids, which I am,” Cecile says in an interview in their home in Dasmariñas Village, Makati City.

The multi-gifted Cy (pronounced psy) drew public attention when at age 8 he wrote the lyrics and libretto for the musical “The Magic Staff” and appeared in the production when it was staged at the Meralco Theater a year later.

While attending Philippine Science High School in Quezon City, he copiously wrote short stories and novels, and painted abstract forms. He also wrote a musical score for a concert.

Photographic memory

Now a physics freshman at the University of the Philippines, he’s into “experimental music,” and translates his compositions into stories, drawings and paintings. He is set to launch his own album on the Internet, his mother says.

His brother, Yosh, who started talking when he was 2 months old, devours books (history books are his favorite), and can readily recite names of personalities, events and places in history; he has a photographic memory.

He also started writing a novel more than a year ago. Now in Grade 4 at International Montessori in Forbes Park, Makati City, Yosh is fascinated with the Internet; he is the first Filipino to join the Roblox role-playing gaming site.

The two brothers have appeared in Promil’s Gifted Kids TV commercials.

The youngest, Aya, proved to be adept with puzzles and blocks. A first-grader at the same Montessori school, she has shown a keen interest in science and New Age books, according to her mother.

At the bookstore

Cecile shares an anecdote about her two younger children, who, like their eldest brother, have had their share of the limelight, already guesting in TV shows.

“I brought them to PowerBooks at Greenbelt and left them at the children’s section, but they protested. Yosh likes history; Aya is into New Age,” she says, chuckling.

“When I got back more than an hour later from a meeting, I saw Yosh reading JFK’s biography. I asked him if he wanted to buy it. He said no because he was almost through reading it.”

Cecile, a graduate of Psychology, Philosophy and Political Science from the University of the Philippines, admits that parenting gifted kids is “enjoyable, but it is not without difficulty.”

Realizing that her background on psychology was insufficient, she made extensive researches on gifted children, and corresponded with experts on the matter.

Keen senses

She found out that her children, like other gifted children, have keen senses, and ask a lot of questions about anything under the sun.

“It makes me read more, not only because they’re a little advanced, but also because every parent should do this in order to communicate with their kids. I’m humble enough to be the student sometimes,” Cecile says.

She realized, however, that she could only do so much since she also runs the operations of the family’s trading business full time.

It helped that the couple joined the Philippine Association for the Gifted Inc. (PAG) shortly after Yosh started talking comprehensively when he was two months old, and found support from members, who also have gifted children.

Nurturing the gifted

“It’s not a guarantee that if you speak early you’re gifted. In his case, it was weird, he spoke too early. That’s why I joined the association. I was scared I wouldn’t know how to deal with this anymore,” Cecile recounts.

PAG, a nonprofit, nonstock organization, was founded in 1994 to help families, child care workers, and institutions identify and nurture gifted children and their needs.

The fourth week of November has been proclaimed “National Week for the Gifted and Talented.”

Understanding the gifted child and his needs, and employing the right approach are crucial to his growth and development, otherwise, things could go awry, Cecile notes.

It’s in the genes

“It’s a very lonely world if you can’t find someone to understand you,” she says. “If the guidance is not very good, you could turn the gift into something, which could either benefit or harm society.”

Their father Koh, an anthropologist, taught himself how to play musical instruments when he was young. He also raced cars and easily memorized numbers.

Cecile believes the children took after them.

“It’s in the genes,” says Cecile, who also writes articles on parenting, fashion and food for newspapers and magazines, designs and acts, among other interests.

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