MEZZOTINT memories. Young boys and girls playing “touching ball.” Heavy rain after the class. Mastering “Pepe and Pilar.” A BA KA DA in unison. Memorizing the table of multiplication. Understanding the “Our Father” (Amay Namon). Bringing tablet chairs to school. Remembering the toothless head teacher. Joining my crush inside the raincoat. Aahh, those were the days.
Graduation rites, recognition ceremonies and the closing of the school year are coming soon… last week of March or first week of April. Well, I can’t help but remember how all these started. My mother told me that I have to enroll in Grade 1 because I am already seven years old. I was made to touch my left ear using my right hand, passing over my head. I did it. That was a measure that I could be admitted in Grade 1.
New pencil, new pad paper, new box of crayons. Auntie Paquing made me a new “puroy” (short pants assembled from the textile remnants). I had my first taste of gem brand t-shirt; 80 centavos each. School was waiting for me, Adela Primary School. I had no idea what school life is all about. I enjoyed my five-centavo daily allowance coupled with boiled bananas.
The barefoot walk from home to school was long. I had to negotiate a two and a half-kilometer distance. Early morning, the best route was the concrete highway. Early noon, the best short cut was to pass the sugarcane fields. We were requested to bring wood table chair because there were no enough chairs inside the bamboo-nipa classroom. The floor was just the compacted soil. Cleaners were assigned to fit the classroom. We got to wet the soil before the start of the first period class.
The alphabets were introduced to us. We mastered them. I was proud I could write and read “baka”, “bulak”, “mata”, “bibig”… my teacher told me I was a fast learner. That could not be that easy. I had difficulty with my table of multiplication. I was only good in table of one, table of two, table of five and table of ten. I got five pencils and I consume the eraser faster than the pencils.
Our feeding program was a daily ration of cooked yellow corn mixed with powdered soya milk. Most of my classmates got LBM during the first week. Out teacher told us that the food was imported. (Of course, I could not understand “imported”.) The label in the box and sack read “Made in U.S.A.” Anyway, we liked the milk plastic bag. We made it our school bag.
I almost memorized my textbook, “Pepe and Pilar.” Pepe is the brother. Pilar is the sister. Both have a father and a mother. Father is a farmer. Mother is a housekeeper. The dog is Bantay. The cat is Moning. He-he-he. At my young age, I was given the impression that all fathers are farmers and all mothers are housekeepers.
I was made to believe that “recess” is a subject and that was my favorite subject. At recess time, I spent my five centavos to buy butong-butong, atay-atay, hopia, saging-saging, or monay (not all of them but any of them). The 15-minute break was also our chance to play “espadahay” (sword fighting) using our hands. Our kingdom was the slope near the school going to the river. We were hiding at the bananas to surprise the enemy.
The best part was going home. I would make it an opportunity to make a long walk with my crush who was residing in the next farm (hacienda). I loved rainy days. I would show off my raincoat (a new fertilizer plastic sack). My crush had no choice but to join me inside the sack. Funny but corny. Together, I could not find words to express my admiration to her. Instead, we would talk about rain, her pig, my dog, my shoulder, her feet, my knees.
In school, I developed phobia in music. I could shout but I could not sing. My favorite song during programs was “I have Two Hands.” I was more confused in my catechism class. I was told that God is strict. God does not want us to commit sin. I was confused with what is sin. My mother told me that I have to be circumcised so that I can use it well when the right time comes. My teacher in catechism told us that erection is bad and boys have to close their eyes when they see the panties of the girls. But, on Saturdays we were swimming together at Imbang River.
During my first confession, as preparation for my first communion, I asked the priest if God is strict as told to us by our teacher in catechism. The priest smiled. “Don’t believe her. God is understanding.” Another confusion!
Anyway, ‘t was how I learned what’s in the world. I can’t forget my first days in school. I can’t forget my teacher, too. “Tell me who your teachers are and I will tell you how you will govern men. Tell me what you have learned and I will predict how you will survive difficult times. By your experiences, you will make a difference. “As I See It” salutes the graduates and the men and women who will receive recognition. Hail!