Kiddie Memories of Second Grade

Facebook not only brings people closer — finding long-lost friends and acquainting new ones — it also rekindles old memories, as old photos emerge.


Like this photo of birthday party of Rey Amador Bargamento, a classmate in second grade of Mrs Florita Papin’s Grade 2 Zinnia. From left: Leah Mae Bargamento (Rey’s sister), Michael Almario, April Labagala, Ramir Bargamento (Rey’s brother), Elisa Yana, Rizza Rizada, Rey Amador Bargamento, Genielyn Lirazan, Hazel Magpuyo, Felicisimo Celebrar Jr, Christopher Bermudez, me, Ana Victoria Melgarejo and Michael Monteverde.

Birthday parties didn’t have the fancy decorations (it was held at Rey’s home), elaborate costumes (no masks, hats or special motif) or Bozo the clown to entertain us. We were a behaved bunch, especially under Mrs Papin’s watchful eyes.

High School Reunion

My wife and I recently watched The American Reunion, the latest sequel to the American Pie chain of films I have come to consider as one of my most favorite movies (along with Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and 3 Idiots).

The timing of the movie couldn’t be more perfect for me. My high school class will celebrate its 20th year this year. This year also happens to be the 15th anniversary since college graduation. Sadly, I am not coming to either simply because there is no reunion being organized. It seemed that I belong to a batch of classmates who don’t care much about reminiscing what may be called “golden years”. Or at least don’t consider them as priorities.

I was not in the photo.

As I left the doors of Holy Cross of Mintal to pursue bigger dreams, I had this feeling that one day, I will be back in the campus and reunite with friends some ten or twenty years later and wait for my turn to narrate my journey so far.

High school life has been one of the most memorable moments for everyone, including me. Mimicking teacher mannerisms, school breaks and outings, revelation of crushes over a game of spin a bottle are among them. High school reunion is a perfect dose to take a break from the so-called real world and possibly discover a long-kept secret revealed during those half-drunk conversations.

“Jonathan was a black belter”.

“We composed a TV commercial featuring the surnames of Ms Genise, Ms Miclat, and so on.”

“I just couldn’t tell that seatmate she has that awfully bad breathe”, referring to someone who was conspicuously absent in the gathering.

We could print shirts simulating the activity colors worn every Wednesday — especially made for the reunion. We could sing ‘To Christ Through Mary’ and award a prize to someone who can name all class sections during our time or remember names of subject teachers. We could play a trivia game: what is Sr Anne Marie Noveda’s middle name. What is the name of the shop guys hang out and watch VHS shows during lunch break. Who is the starting point guard of the basketball varsity. Who was the reason why the horizontal bar was eventually removed near the acacia tree. We can play games we actually played during intramurals from dodge ball or scrabble.

Lots of ideas brewing in my mind.

hcm_logoJoanne and Aldrin, our valedictorian and salutatorian respectively, could do a speech or, in the case of Joanne, do a live phone patch from her humble abode in Phoenix, Arizona if family and work load would deprive her attending the event. We can invite and honor our teachers, from Ma’am Alminaza to Sir Valero and from Ma’am Macaresa to Ma’am Recla. We would also do a special tribute to those who moved on, notably Sir Roland Picar.

Lots of ideas in my mind.

When I left HCM, we used to have those mini reunions during birthday parties, beach parties and karaoke sessions at Torres Street. Those parties evolved during times when we started to drift apart by means of some of us marrying early, others pursuing careers outside of Davao and eventually leaving the city for good. With nobody leading the way in organizing this so-called grand reunion, the idea fell out of our priorities, overlapped by more serious responsibilities in life: work and children.

One day, Sheila, a batchmate now based in Montreal, Quebec sent me a message proposing the idea of a reunion during their vacation in Davao. We started to inform classmates to scout for places, organize program and at least make this gathering a decent one. I was willing to book a ticket and make the trip. After all, this is what I’ve been waiting for. Dismissing earlier “reunions” held a year removed from high school would be justified if we stage a more meaningful event 20 years since singing Theme from Mahogany.

But for some reason, Sheila removed the Facebook event indicating that the event is cancelled. With my time divided between brutal stretch of work and family and community responsibilities, I find it hard to carry out organizing the event myself.

So memories won’t be relived this year, our turn to have a milestone reunion. Never mind, there’s 25 years, 50 years. But who knows who’ll be left behind to join the party or remember those funny high school anecdotes we used to poke fun at.

Life at UIC Computer Center

Right after graduating at UIC, I was in a hurry to get a job and put aside plans of going abroad. I know experience is a great teacher so I decided to stay put and look for jobs within the city.

In my fourth year, I had an on the job training at Rhine Marketing, a local dealer of computers and accessories. Together with Raul R. and Rizza R., we fix broken motherboards, assemble computer sets and carry stocks from the warehouse to the showroom. It was a good learning experience but tend to pull me away from what I wanted to do; I prefer to become a programmer than to be a technician. Needless to say, I didn’t consider applying for a position in the company.

Ironically, the day before our graduation, I had my first interview at Powertech, a local dealer of Apple and Macintosh machines. Cecile A., my classmate and childhood friend already works there so that felt a bit reassuring. As a fresh graduate — formally the following day — not much was expected of me as a major contributor. Instead I’ll find myself clawing into the nuances of Apple machines and operating system, which I used for the first time. The role I applied for was after-sales support, which means I will be involved in troubleshooting, software installation and demo to clients and prospects. My experience at Rhine probably got me into the interview. But honestly, I didn’t consider this application to be a priority simply because I wanted to do something else.

Maricar inspects the CHED training room construction adjacent to Comcen office.
After the graduation ceremony was held at Davao Convention and Trade Center, classmates organized a celebratory party to be held in Kidapawan, where Bibiano T., Vincent G., and Elmer D. were willing hosts. There were drinks, guitar and recollection of And before we could get into our plans, I got a call from UIC Computer Center, UIC’s, well, computer center, where I also submitted my application during the last week of the school year. I took the bus the following morning back to Davao and hope to make the interview as soon as I arrive.

The interviewer was Engr Randy G., an engineer who used to teach in our department but never became my instructor. With his straight talking demeanor, a candidate caught off-guard by his occasional philosophical questions would possibly be left speechless and give up. But if you keep your cool, he’ll lighten up and even start to display sense of humor. At my interview, I was tense, but held on to finish the interrogation. He was then joined by Noel L., the systems administrator and Jovy C., the senior programmer, whose personality when it comes to interviewing people is quite similar to Paula Abdul at American Idol.

Before this version was out online,
I got to build and manage the UIC website.
A couple of weeks later, I got the go signal I got admitted to my first ever full-time job. My previous credential was the half semester stint at Rhine, as I never had any part-time work, and failed at all attempts to get summer jobs. I soon found out I was admitted along with Michael C., my family relative and batch mate at UIC, Edison E., another batch mate, Brendon R., who graduated ahead of us, and a Cecilbeth ‘Pie’ I., a Computer Science graduate from Ateneo de Davao. With the addition of five of us, suddenly the UIC Computer Center’s population doubled.

Other members of the team are Maricar R., a presentations guru proceeding with her Masters degree and Tammy R., demure yet reliable Über-Programmer who occupy the corner spot.

I was then assigned to program the Teacher’s Behavioral Inventory, a landmark project I maintained up to the time I left UIC Computer Center. As the users of this program are staff of the Guidance Center, I occasionally spend time going to their offices to explain the progress of the program, fix their printer or engage in short chat. During the process, I got to meet new friends, same as from Cashier, Registrar, Grade School, Library and the RVM sisters.

Although our positions ranged from programmer to network administrator, we were given a few teaching loads to help the understaffed Computer Science department. I taught Calculus, Algebra and computer subjects. Some semesters I need to cross to the Bonifacio campus to teach EDP to Commerce students. While programming was relatively relaxing of a job — except deadlines and code review sessions — teaching was a tough job. Sometimes I have to skip lunch to prepare test questions or checking test papers. Another challenging aspect of it is when I am in a class in a mixed bag of brilliant and below average students. In any way, I am bound to make someone fall into boredom or extreme agitation. The worst part of it is when I have to fail students for not making the grade. I was once approached by a mother of a student who pleaded I pass her son; I was moved but was firm in my earlier decision.

Camera-shy yet trigger-happy, Brendon R. is the catalyst of a humorous stay at UIC Computer Center.
I spent three years at UIC before moving to Manila, and eventually settling down in Hong Kong.

Among the most memorable times I had at UIC Computer Center are:

a. Brendon’s jokes. Believe it or not, this is the one I miss the most. Whether it’s towards Ate Jovy, Comp Sci teacher Liza Ruth F., or with the laboratory folks Albert B, and Jerry T, we could never get enough of Brendon’s antics. Notable ones I can remember: You killed my teacher!, a common story plot of a kung fu film; Brendon’s father asking the family to close their eyes while saying graces before meals: Lord, please open our eyes.

b. Travels disguised as recollections. Because I officially belong to UIC Computer Center, that makes me a part of the Non-teaching Personnel even if I have a few teaching units. This means I join the rest of UIC Comcen ‘peeps’ in annual recollections often held far away — for maximum retreat experience. In my brief stay with NTP, we traveled to Cebu and Guimaras/Boracay. Those trips might have triggered my passion in traveling to different places.

c. Meeting new friends. Just the same as described above, being the all-around technician in the whole university is bound to get rewarded with new friends. It also built my confidence in meeting people, which was useful in fighting stage fright I encounter once in a while during my Computer Science classes. With these friends at work, I rarely get out of place during gatherings like acquaintance parties, Christmas parties, NTP meetings and casual encounters at the corridor.

Comcen peeps Brendon, Noel, Michael, Jovy, Tammy -- and a candid me -- at Cebu airport waiting for flight home.
d. Teachers Day. When Engr Jun J. joined the Comcen peeps, we were dragged into becoming dancing teachers. One unforgettable experience was when Michael, Brendon, Jonathan and Jun danced to the tune of Time After Time by Inoj.

e. Comcen outings. Not only we go out as part of non-teaching personnel, but Sir Randy — often known as Bossing — organizes the team for a quick break during summer. We usually spend overnight at a beach resort not necessarily to swim but to deliberate on things I thought were not even necessary. (To this day, I still fail to see the importance of revising a group’s mission and vision every year.) But other than that, it’s great.

f. Starcraft sessions Richard B and Jerry F, who joined Comcen a year after us to fill the void left by Edison and Pie, were even more casual and light-hearted jokes became a more prevalent topic during meetings. It was during their time that I was hooked to Starcraft for the first time. Day time or night time, we conspired to play the game during lunch breaks, after office hours, and even stayed almost midnight to finish a session. Brendon, Michael, Jonathan and I were hooked to the game.

g. Learning experience. Needless to say, my stay at UIC Computer Center was a great learning experience. It was like extending my five year Computer Engineering career with three more. Although I didn’t get to focus on one specialty nor finish the TBI program, I got out of the door more confident to talk about my skills. Connectiong BNC cables for enrollment, building my first website, running a Novell Netware network structure, fixing and assembling computers for the computer laboratory, Norton Commander and Windows 95 were among those I learned in addition to my daily tasks.

After 38 months, I said goodbye to UIC Computer Center to find what life out there has in store for me.

But no worries, we still found time to communicate and even meet in person once in a while.

P.S. 1 – Engr. Randy G., became one of our principal wedding sponsors.

P.S. 2 – My wife wanted to attend Computer Science at UIC but instead enrolled at Ateneo. If she studied at UIC, she would possibly become my student and I don’t know how destiny would be redefined. We got to meet only when we both were working in Hong Kong.

Solenoid Project at Circuits I

When I was at third year in UIC, I belonged to a Circuits class of Engr Marife N., a fresh graduate at University of San Carlos in Cebu and I believe a cousin of our College Dean Engr. Allan G. As we would become her students in Physics later, we found out about her peculiar habit of using a word more often than the others that we sometimes play bets (without the money, of course) on how many times she would utter the word.

As a teacher, she is very knowledgeable about the subject matter that merely looking at her doesn’t do her justice. Her built can deceivingly look like a professor custom-made to lecture all theoretical lessons. I used to think that teachers are afraid to do practice in real world so they stick with lessons at the University without verifying if lessons are also consistent with lab results. Make no mistake, Engr Marife isn’t like that. In fact she’ll do the job well on subjects that combines brain power and practical I-told-you-it-works-in-real-life projects. No wonder she was chosen to teach us Circuits, not because she is a relative of the Dean or the subject is sort of initiation to newcomers.

Aside from lessons that ask us to differentiate, compute and explain current, voltage, resistance, impedance and so on, she — just like previous professors — asked us to create a solenoid project that will prove electricity powers magnets. This is our first practical project in college since making multitesters — out of a fully functional one — for Engr Rolando B the previous semester.

The building that held Circuits class. No, not this one, the building behind it. to Photo credit: Noel Laud

The project was simple. Create a movable arm that carries an electric powered solenoid and with power, it should carry weight of at least two kilograms. I was grouped with Vincent G. and Jose “Jhoep” P. Or shall we say we picked each other because 1) we are close friends and 2) each of us has his own ulterior motive. On the second reason I don’t have to hide them. In my opinion Jhoep is one of the most easy to get along guys in the classroom. Vincent is sort of the person you’ll deal with if you want to get connected with the who’s who in the campus; he’s a student leader and Corps Commander during our ROTC the previous year.

The favorite place to the project was Jose’s house. Not only he has tools to make things happen, his house also offers some sort of privileges to non-residents. Free meals. Free boarding. Interaction with all members of the family, including his very accommodating mum. A project session obviously happens at non-class hours. Which means after 7pm. We take the rickety Annil bus to Jose’s Gem Village (Ma-a) residence and arrive there just before dinner. Sometimes — when our pockets have something to spare — we arrive there a bit later, after dinner at Cherry’s or Malativas just across the Bonifacio campus.

As customary practice, we are stuck in the television watching the news or a closely monitored Judy Ann Santos telenovela before we can formally start our jobs. The trio of us gets going only when the table is cleared, and other family members head to their respective rooms. But sometimes, we have to wait until 10pm before that happens. And while Jose is also busy helping out in the family — his father died when he was in high school and he is the only boy with six sisters — Vince and I had no choice but (happily) hang on to TV screen or some old VCDs.

At about 11pm, we finally got our acts together. I see Jose starting to saw a piece of wood, Vince winding the coil and me, I actually forgot what I did. But after an hour or so, our exhausted bodies and mentally torn brains have to give way to dozing off. We find ourselves sleeping by the living room, and wake up just in time for breakfast. As Jose’s nephew gets the first priority at the breakfast table before he heads off to school, we are silently staring at our solenoid project, not recalling whether it can lift two pounds, or two kilos, or will it work at all. Heck, we’re scared to even plug it in as it may cause short-circuit and render the house without power for at least an hour.

Finally, with a brief session at breakfast, Vince and I leave Jose. We will meet later at the campus at a 2:30pm Philippine Constitution class. For me, it’s go-home time and settle the rest of my sleep deprivation.

Philweb Memories

In not so distant past, I was one ambitious monkey attempting to dive into cyber space at the dawn of the Web. By the time I was officially enrolled in the industry, the unraveling of dotcom bust already took place a dozen timezones behind. But I was glad it happened that way. Otherwise, I could be cultivating a career quite different from what I have now.

After finishing Computer Engineering at UIC, working there wasn’t exactly my plan. However, maybe because I thought it was the safest route to start a career, I’d further my learning by doing BOTH teaching and programming or I was eager to recoup the educational investment I made with my alma mater (yes, I thought about it), it wasn’t a difficult decision to extend my stay at the University.

But after three years, I thought it was enough. So by June 2000, I left UIC at the time when the new school year is starting. (School calendar in the Philippine education system starts in June.) I remembered talking to the school president S. Ma Assumpta David and trying to be firm with my decision. I thought she respected it and didn’t offer to persuade me to stay.

Two weeks of homestay and curtailed income passed before I got a confirmation I was offered a job in Cagayan de Oro City, a good six hour bus ride from Davao City — along the way passing by the house of my future wife. I have relatives in the city where I could stay. And I thought that my journey of hundreds (or thousands of miles) should begin with this step, no matter if it’s more than just a single one.

Thanks to Rizza R., a childhood friend and neighbor who referred me to the job, and an employee leaving the company, I got in. Interestingly, I realized that this reunion marks another milestone between me and Rizza. We went to the same grade school together. We were classmates in high school. And we took the same course in UIC. Now, we’re colleagues. I also came to know a few more in the office. Candice C., Shelley S., Roy Y., Meg V., Kent, D., Alex, Chui O., Edward N., Sir Chavs and Jimmar R. Our office was at Fr. Masterson Avenue, in the third floor of a building called White House because of its immaculate white painting that stands out of the neighborhood.

We’re only about ten people in the office, so it was really an intimate group. We shared lunch together. My aunt Flora prepares packed lunch so I had no problem waking up early and cooking my food. But at times I just want to try what colleagues want to have for lunch. I remember buying mongo at a house located near the office. At work, it’s not unusual to play MP3 from a PC with Winamp; we only got to play what we want to hear. During this time, downloading music through Napster was still prevalent.

In my effort to be with the family every week, I take the Rural Transit bus on Friday nights and arrive in Davao at about 7 in the morning the following day. As I get home, I hit the bed immediately and wake up at about 11, just in time for lunch. I know I had only a few hours left before I pack my things and make the return trip to Cagayan de Oro. By Sunday afternoon, I am already at Ecoland terminal waiting for my bus to leave Davao.

After work, we sometimes hang out at a friend’s house or we ate dinner together. We played Starcraft a lot! I guess we had a lot of plans that time, like going to the beach or other type of adventure. Unfortunately, they didn’t materialize because I was recalled to the Manila office. I thought the move was killjoy. But I realized this was the reason I left UIC.

Cagayan de Oro was a favorite city of mine. As a kid, we go for summer vacation prelude to the exciting Bohol adventure. For some reason I remember urging my mother if I could study high school there. But the idea was frowned upon, and now I can’t imagine why I made that absurd request. Apart from meeting my relatives (mother’s side), my job in Cagayan de Oro also gave me the opportunity to meet my aunt Sylvia a few years before she died of cancer.

In the office we built this e-commerce suite called e-Padala. I thought the system was promising (Oracle database and competent Meg V. as DBA) but the execution was poor. Procedures were lax at best (not scalable, no strict coding practice and a nightmare system to take over, from an incoming I was asked to move to Manila to finish things.

While it wasn’t my first time to go to Manila, I was still mesmerized by its size. I was with Meg and Sir Deck P. reassigned in Philweb in the posh Enterprise Tower in Makati. Staring at tall buildings was overwhelming — not that they’re taller than Hong Kong skyscrapers — and you’d feel you’re a small dot in a big organization. No longer the easy going lifestyle I enjoyed at the White House. In Manila, you have to hurry up. Even if our office is just one jeepney — or a ticycle if you wake up a bit late — ride away.

Our staff house was located along Estrella Avenue, near Rockwell. It wasn’t big (in fact we were crowding in the rooms), but good enough for newcomers in the city. It has air conditioning unit that’s loud enough to wake you up at night. (I have to say many of my house mates snore in their sleep, so if you’re among last to hit the bed, good luck.) My stay at the Estrella staff house also revealed Metro Manila’s weakness. One of the strongest typhoons in the year left Manila flooded and us unable to leave the staff house. Ironically, as water was everywhere down the street our faucet couldn’t produce a drop of water. We had to rely on bottled water as tap water has become an unreliable source. This reminds me of Davao City, where water flowing out of our tap is safe for drinking and buying bottled water was considered a crazy idea. And we seldom experience waterless faucets too.

In the morning colleagues just rush to the bathroom and head to work in a hurry. Many of us just take our breakfast on the road, or at the fast food area (notably Jollibee) of The Enterprise Tower. For dinner I usually eat at the fastfood at Landmark on my own. This made me miss my mother’s cooking. I was always told that in Manila, every move you make costs money. I guess having this dinner instead of enjoying the company of family members and homemade cooking is part of it. From a predictable life at the UIC campus in May to a new layer of freedom in CDO in July and a chaotic Manila in September, this is the break I’ve been waiting for.

If I accomplished something, it was not seeing the beta version of e-Padala but in landing another job at Zurich Insurance at nearby Citibank Tower. When I told Sir Chavs via instant messaging that I have something to share by the time I return to CDO in October, he already understood I was leaving. I did not only bid farewell to colleagues I only got to work with for two and a half months. I also had to bid goodbye to my aunt Flora and uncle Lito as I packed my clothes and take the evening bus trip to Davao.

Back to School

I can’t help it but always look back years back.

It’s almost June and even if we know this is a wedding month, something I haven’t booked yet, it’s more known as back to school month.

Here in Hong Kong, following the British system that school starts in September and ends in July to fully cope up with the thought that July and August is meant for overseas trips, summer camps and crazy sale while learning is at peak during winter season.

After a month of playing native games with neighbors and watching TV, the fun is over and everyone’s back to school. Enrollment is not much of an excitement because walking thirty minutes to my grade school building is not like a walk in the park. My mother brings me to school and while walking, we would talk about how many notebooks do I need, whose the teacher I would like to enroll to and negotiate my baon for the school season. The process of enrollment does not take a couple of hours and the sight of the growing weeds in the landscape means we will start the school year cleaning up the field. So I then ask my mother to get me a new piece of sanggot from the blacksmith next door.

Coming from downtown to get new supplies for our little buy and sell business, me and my siblings were eager to see what kind of notebooks we do have. I need a new bag as my old Flash Gordon inherited from Kindergarten is less fashionable and I need that ‘box’ type so i can put my Araling Panlipunan, Science, Math books, and other activity notes. The notebooks we will have for this school year are 30-leaf items whose covers appear Aga Muhlach, Maricel Soriano, Philip Cezar, Bogs Adornado and William Martinez. We would then remove the spring binder and replace it with thick technicolor yarns. As experience would tell us, spring notes often wear out by midseason and is therefore inconvenient to use. As the children then are less conscious of what others would say about their new accessories, we did not worry about being bullied or being called class clown; children then were quite corteous.

And yes, I do not need a new pair of shoes as my brown barko is still as durable as the day it was bought. We go to school in slippers and while it makes our feet dirty and exposed to all kinds of infectious diseases during monsoon season, we were pretty much confident about them.

Going home on a sunny day reminds me of the dusty road en route. We used to take either of the two routes, one at the Sampaguita Street highway or the longer, yet more relaxed, less dusty route via Kumintang and Dona Aurora Street.

On a rainy day, it’s more sober on the second route, coupled with scary ghost tales especially when one member of CHDF was murdered along the same path when I was in my second grade. At home, my lola would prepare hot champorado topped with condensed milk. I missed those days.

As years passed, routes change, friends add up, and interests quickly change. When I was in my first grade I only wished to go home and watch Electric Company and Sesame Street, later Superbook, Flying House, Scooby Doo, Batibot, etc. That is why I was ecstatic when I got to watch a few of the old Gospel episodes last Christmas during my vacation.

We all wish we were kids, but God made us grown ups in order to fully understand, enjoy and appreciate things around us. Afterall, as independent minded we eventually become, who would want to be crawling forever, or stuck on television watching Barney for at least sixty years?

Remembering The Teachers

I spent 17 years in formal education. It spanned five institutions and learned 26 different subjects under 48 different teachers. I met about 530 classmates and befriended another 750 in that period. It took 70 notebooks, five dozen of pen and pencils, a dozen pairs of shoes and immeasurable number of hours to study my lessons before I could say I made it. Yet until now, as you all agree, we are still learning new lessons in life everyday. One of which may not have been discussed before in the class but one which comes from our instincts to appreciate the efforts done by our teachers by remembering the past as years roll by.

My first teacher in school was Mrs Beatriz Canillo. It was 20 years ago when I first got admitted to a formal academic training. It was the so called Project Hope kindergarten, initiated by the late Elias B. Lopez who was then the mayor of Davao City. I can remember when my mother put on my shining, heavy brown shoes, plain white shirt and navy blue shorts after an early morning breakfast. It was my first day in school. The school was a good fifteen minute walk from home, just across the house of our barangay captain. I can see little kids also there, playing the swing and the slide, others hesitant to part from their mothers, too shy to talk to others. I was carrying my baon — a couple of sandwiches and a small orange juice container – and my
Flash Gordon bag when I was helped to find my way inside and look for a suitable table to stay. The rattan chairs are available though I was told I needed to get one for my own use next time.

Then the bell sounded; classes will start soon. In a little while I can see a few of my classmates, mostly boys beginning to cry as their mothers or lolas move out of the room. It was a tough task for Madam Betty to keep the class in order, but all the while, the crying ended and we soon started scanning our Coloring Book with our new set of crayons.

It was a small classroom, just enough for the thirty of us in the morning. Another thirty students are accommodated in the afternoon. And it’s the only classroom we have. But despite the water flowing out of the thatched roof on a rainy day, Madam Betty made sure we are ready to enter the First Grade. It was tough for her since meager funding for the school from the local government meant various needs have to be subsidized by parents. And parents do have to do more than just that. Just as we were assigned cleaners in our classroom once a week, parents have to tend to the beautification of the school’s lawn on weekends. Some will trim the grass, some will sweep the floor, and some will prepare refreshments. After all things have been set properly, it’s time to unwind with some funny anecdotes from their beloved children.

When I was in Grade School, I began to wonder how it takes someone to be a teacher. Maybe I could not be a teacher, I wanted to be a fireman (I later wanted to be an airline pilot, owing to my first flight experience). I am too shy to face the class. I also thought of the pains a teacher endures. When I was in Grade 3, I could see our substitute teacher Ma’am Emnace grimacing during our lunch break when she suffered ulcer. My Grade 5 class also witnessed when Mrs Alejandro fainted out of stress while discussing our midmorning Araling Panlipunan (Social Studies) subject.

But I had some fond memories too. Sporting my crisp Kab Scout uniform in Grade 2 while singing the song Madam Papin taught us:

Come young citizens of the world
We are one, we are one
Come young citizens of the world
We are one, we are one
We have one hope
We have one dream
And with one voice
We sing…
Peace, prosperity
And love for all mankind

And of course, to culminate my elementary years was in the class of Mrs Umusig where the self-proclaimed quintet of me, Rodel, Jergen, Christopher and Ray Amador were dubbed Comedian Brothers. Especially memorable to me are my lonely walks going home in the rain, with my blue raincoat hanging loosely as my feet got numb. At home awaits my share of champorado made by my late grandma and Scooby Doo every Tuesday afternoons. In high school, I wondered how big, or how small the salaries of our teachers in school. It was good they have their children study for free there. But much later I would know the salary they receive was smaller than what I got in my first job out of the University.

Never mind, I told myself “Even if I don’t have a good salary, as long as I am happy, I will be fine.” I think they are fine. But sooner I would realize most of them are not. Many of them have been desperately trying to move out and get a slot at the public schools. Some have succeeded while others have failed. One example is through a tragic story I got when I was still on my first few months in Hong Kong was the death of our CAT commandant, Sir Picar. He was a stern man with looks able to melt down our senses. He was a great mentor in the sciences that is why I got inspired to receive the Best in Math and Best in Science, partly because of his motivation. It was just too late I never met and thank him personally of my achievements recently.

When I was a college freshman, I thought professors enjoy the most relaxed job and better paid than high school teachers. They just give lectures, random quizzes to intimidate us and do not mind if I am wearing my prescribed uniform in class or not. By the power of impulsive judgment, they can pass a dozen and drop the rest, I was told. Had I got what I wanted the past summer it would have been a totally different scenario. My mother told me I could not study at UPLB due to our finances. As you may know State U imposes one of the most liberal student policies in the academe. Add that woe of not getting admitted at UP to getting the chance to try my luck on other schools during high school. Yet scholarships offered consolation and a big shot in the arm for my wounded pride. I remembered Mrs Fuertes, our high school registrar shrugging her shoulders upon knowing I gave up the slot.

Giving up the slot meant I had to look elsewhere, not faraway but just the outskirts of the city. I tried every school possible just to make it, but eventually ICC was the last say. Just before my first day of classes in College, ICC became UIC. When I read the Student Handbook, it’s just a more elaborate high school catalog when it comes to imposing student policies and discipline. In UIC, we are asked to wear white polo and pin our ID anywhere in the campus. No smoking, no fraternities. The school policy made teachers and security guards target of students’ ire. In the Engineering Mechanics class of Engr Escalante, students who do not wear socks are denied entry in the classroom. Engr Sabate requires T square/0.5/0.3 pen as gate pass to his Engineering Drawing class. I thought teachers ought to impose such ‘guidelines’ to instill discipline and self reliance. It was never a problem for teachers who have played as role models. But to others, it was simply disgusting. I had a teacher who got involved in a relationship with another student in school.

It would have been alright if he/she had an A++ quality of teaching. While we were in the classroom waiting for Mr. Bajo’s History 18 class, an unusual commotion was heard from outside. As we perched out of the corridor, we saw faculty members out in protest, with black armbands and one carrying a symbolic coffin to resemble the
quality of education of the three year old University. The bottom line of the argument is money and benefits undelivered as stipulated in contracts. Shortly after we had our own protest actions which echoed our teachers’ sentiments, we were asked to sign Terms of Agreement prior to being enrolled for the semester. It was a basis for a possible suit against us, had we made the same set of actions like we did the past summer.

Once I graduated and soon enough looked for a job, I felt compelled to practice being a teacher while grabbing the job I desired. What was important for me then was to land a job and avoid being unused, unproductive and useless after five grueling college years. And so I did not become a pilot and instead fell into that job I used to think I was not fit at all: to be a teacher. Every morning I have to be awake at 6, be ready to leave home by 7 and hope traffic jam have not clogged up the mainstreams of Matina
or our driver is quite clever enough to negotiate the road, despite the frowns passengers on other jeepneys. As I reach the office, I just leave my bag at the Computer Center and head upstairs where I have to catch the 7.30 class. Whenever I am late, I hope the DSA secretary won’t reach the noisy classroom of mine and record I was not yet; else, it means salary deduction and worse, reprimand from the DSA or VP for Academics the next time she holds a meeting.

On times I am an early bird, poring over the book of Love and Rainville is a must. Differential Calculus is the harder subject for me to learn than Integral Calculus but here in my teaching profession, it’s the latter which is harder to teach. Clad in our 40k (pesos) uniform (to quote Jerome Lomada), I feel dignified to talk to my students confidently over the notes. Patterned generally for non-teaching personnel, we become used to be branded as colorums as only a handful of teachers wear them. To add confusion, we at one point, did not know where we really belong. As hired professionals to work at the office, we are technically members of the Non Teaching Personnel. As instructors who handle as much as 9 units a Sem, we felt obliged to join faculty development  programs to improve our teaching ways and methods. Anyway it did
not affect me too much. I have taught mostly Math subjects to Computer Science students while handling some IT and EDP classes for both CS and Commerce Departments.

Somehow every school year ends, I find myself on a lonelier end. Friends from the student body have to go back to their provinces or move elsewhere which makes it hard for communication. Remember I was almost at their ages so we share a lot of common things. That was the time text messaging started to proliferate, however most handsets were in the teachers’ possession and still an expensive, luxurious gadgets to students. While it was fulfilling to see some of my students already like me – teaching or working somewhere else – I felt losing interest in this field anymore. I want to go out and be in an adventure. I wonder my teachers in the past have felt the same. Perhaps no, as evidenced by the number of years they nurtured this particular noble profession.

Changes and changes have taken place and soon we felt as if the office I am working for the past three years were kept under constant renovation: in three years, the office underwent three major overhauls, something that in a way, disrupts the plans we laid out on those organization planning. Over the years I count them up and make sure I make something out of the milestones as they unfold: a) 1998 was the 10th year since grade school graduation. While the class reunion failed to materialize, a simple card addressed to all my teachers from Mrs Camcam to Mrs Umusig. b) 2002 was the 10th year since finishing high school. Ditto. But what I missed was that it was 20 years ago when I was clad in that shiny brown shoes and proudly showing off my Flash Gordon bag in the class of Ma’am Betty. Maybe on 2007, I will not forget the Silver Anniversary thank you card.