MY OLDER sister knew Alexander like how I've known him. Alexander was her classmate in high school. After three years, the same Alexander became my classmate. When my cousin moved up to high school, Alexander was in the same room too. Everybody seemed to know him because of being a classmate, somehow, sometime. One of the teachers observed when the fruits of a local tree we call "Bittaog" (Bitaog Tree) begin to fall, Alexander starts to disappear.
This was also the time when the first part of our Intramurals is concluded. His motivation in enrolling as observed by most was the Intramurals held every October of the year and when this event is over, school seems to be over for him too. The thought of Alexander reminds me how important Intramurals is to some students, if not for all.
I remember our robust anticipation of the Intramurals back in high school. For most, this is one of the highlights of the school year's events aside from some academic activities like graduation as the optimum affair or the Junior-Senior Prom. Not primarily because of the total suspension of classes but the competitive spirit it brings and the participation of all. This also becomes a town's affair.
The Intramurals is divided in two categorical events which are scheduled in different months. Part one is the athletic competition and part two is the Literary Musical Contest. Athletic competition includes all sporting events that are known to the place. Literary musical contest includes essay writing contest, quiz bee, and other forms of literary acts. This is held during the day. At night, there's the singing (solo and duet), dancing, declamation, skit (dramatization) contests and the like.
Division of teams are done through draw lots. The school is small and so the population is scarce too. There's no way first year students can compete with the fourth year students so teams distinguished in their assigned colors are composed of students from all the year levels.
Teachers are assigned of their team through drawing of lots.
We used to talk about teachers getting into quarrels among themselves carried by the heat of the competition. This adds spice to excitement of the event of course. Uniforms are ordered from the mainland a couple of weeks before the intramurals to make sure that everyone has it.
Teachers assign the classrooms as quarters for all the four teams so they have somewhere to stay before and after their scheduled games. Teams conduct meetings in these rooms. They store their snacks here. An area is also allotted for the sound system for the announcement of the upcoming schedules and to give update of the ongoing events.
In front of the school are the four poles bearing the flags of the four teams. We can learn the standing of our team based on the positioning of the flags. If the team is leading, the flag of that team is lifted high against the other flags. The second team based on current points follows and so the third and the last. This is updated constantly. So when two flags are positioned on equal heights, it means that these two teams are going toe to toe against each other.
The school allot 3 to 5 days for the Intramurals to give importance of its significance. Because of intramurals, students in the little town are recognized. Barangays where these students reside feel proud too.
One marathoner from our barangay is known by everybody because he always win the marathon event. Everyone cannot help but feel amazed because the man's physique is thin, not because of choice but due to the economic condition of the family. The question was, where does he get his strength? The whole barangay updates itself of the competition so they all come out from their houses to witness the event on the scheduled date.
The community would shout in excitement and pride as he approaches and the usual chant of his name ("Aing, Aing, Aing...") would fill the neighborhood. An onlooker would give him a bottle of water. Another would tap his back while the rest claps in joy. People look up to him because of his achievement.
This distinction remained even after I learned that he did not finish high school.
Many folks in the barangay would go to school just to witness a sprinting event because another local hero is competing. Basketball events are watched not only by students but by people in the community.
The results of these competitions become the talk of the town.
Intramurals shows the other intelligence of the students. Those who are good in sports are given the opportunity to show their skills and talents. Those are good in academics but not so much in sports are given opportunity to be the observers. The field is leveled.
The intramurals gave us the experience to cheer, to feel excited or to get nervous, to compete and to give what we got, to sweat and sometimes to cry in disappointment and despair, to complain and fight what we think is right, to support, to shout in victory and to learn from defeats, and of course to view school not only as an academic institution but a place to experience fun.
Today I don't see even the shadow of Alexander.
Yes, there are lots like him who continue to disappear after the first half of the school year but there is none who is motivated anymore of the intramural event. Because this event is sometimes conducted for the sake of report and compliance.
I was thinking perhaps it was because of my classmate Alexander, and the classmates of so many batches, that our small school back in high school continue to give extreme importance to our school intramurals.