ATCHE Elvie brought me to college—literally. My first year in Manila, she shelled out the money for my school fees.

Before that, I was in the country enjoying summer (do we really have summer?). A swim in the river. A climb to feast on sineguelas. Basketball all day long.

Then a stroke of luck: I saw my classmate at the town plaza.

“What school will you go to?” he asked.

Only then did I learn enrolment was on/over.

My parents seemed to have forgotten all about it?

As I said here, we are nine siblings.

After I told my parents about it, they called up Atche Elvie, using the phone at the municipio.

“You take the first bus bound for Manila tomorrow,” my father said afterwards.

Kuya Eddie (Causon), Atche Elvie’s hubby, brought me to the Philippine College of

Commerce (PCC) and pleaded my case to the registrar, Ms Esmeralda Roxas (bless her soul).

“I know enrolment is closed, Madam, but, please, have pity on this kid,” he said to Ms Roxas. “He is provinciano and his parents were unaware of enrolment deadline.”

It helped that Kuya Eddie was a PCC alumnus. He won P25 for submitting the winning name for the school paper (“The Businessman”). That clinched it.

“OK, since you have done something great for PCC, let’s save the kid as your added reward,” Ms Roxas said.

I had grades that qualified me as an entrance scholar, but I lost the privilege on a technicality.

“Let’s give him the exams to be fair to everybody,” Ms Roxas said.

I passed—ahem! with flying colors.

The next morning, with Atche Elvie’s P110, I got myself enrolled in, what else, but commerce. PCC had only that course to offer. Can beggars be choosers?

On my second semester, humbly, I had tuition money of my own. I had started working.

But still, Atche Elvie wouldn’t let me leave the house.

So, I stayed with her four years, the time it took me to finish my course.

Atche Elvie was the proudest when I presented her my diploma.

On June 29, 2013, Atche Elvie my sister, died. Organ failure. She was 72.

Painfully cruel, because barely two months back, Kuya Pepito, my Toronto-based brother, had also died.


Play “Taps.”