WITH a few exceptions, I always eat fried chicken with calamansi and toyo. The reason being, early breakfast. Well, at least, when I was teaching. When you have a 7:40 a.m. every day, you have no choice but to eat breakfast at about 5:30 a.m. And after that, you rush through the house in order to get to the first class. And that poses a problem because by 8:30 a.m., the hunger pangs kick in, leaving you no choice but a second breakfast. And thankfully, at the Ateneo High School canteen of yore, there was yes you guessed it, fried chicken. And sinuglaw. And the teachers would gather for the first or second meal of the day. And I always had fried chicken with toyo and calamansi. Plus the conversations were fun. I will always associate it with the Ateneo High of the past because it was a lot of fun.
I mean, we would converge at the “canteen” because it technically was a classroom but because of the construction of the gym, they had to put the canteen somewhere. But we had a lot of fun at that “canteen.” We would share stories, tell stupid jokes and just a have a great time. We had teachers, admin people, guidance counselors, lab assistants, everyone who had the good fortune of having no classes right before recess. We bonded in those moments. I remember going to the guidance offices to fetch my friends and we would all go and have the second breakfast.
And we would stay until the recess bell rang and we would all scamper because the crowd of students that would soon come down was stifling. So when the bell rang, we would all hurry and go back to our respective workplaces.
I miss those days when everything was just slow and fun. Of course, there was pressure but it was something that we all dealt with. Part of the job thing. Most of the teachers then have gone separate ways. Some have become Thinner or “healthier.” Others died while others went abroad searching for more fried chicken I guess.
But it was not just the second breakfast. We had overnight sessions where we would just sit and talk and cry and laugh and just have fun. We had picnics, out-of-town trips, yearend lunches and dinners and a lot of visiting each other’s homes. It was personal.
Sometime ago, I met some of those teachers via a Zoom meeting and boy did we have fun. The only thing lacking was, you guessed it right, the fried chicken. And the sinuglaw. Most of us are older and perhaps wiser, I would not know. But those people are dear to me because we all shared a common ideal. Call it what you want, idealism, fire, passion.
It was not the fried chicken actually.