Friday, September 26, 2003

Memories of First Grade

Because I had skipped kindergarten, I joined my elder brother in one class in the prep level. The adviser was Ms. Cruz. That was 1976 in Roosevelt College Marikina. My only memory of that year was pissing in my shorts during class, and crying all the way to the restroom.

In 1977, I moved to Marist in the hinterlands of Marikina Heights, settling in class One-D, with bespectacled Miss Flores as the homeroom adviser. Through most of that time, I figured like a lost puppy, not being able to memorize fully the names of my classmates, despite excelling academically. I had only been punished once by the stinging smack of a wooden ruler on my palm. Miss Flores found it insulting that I drew on a piece of lined paper a maiden under a tree surrounded by animals. “Who drew this?! Who drew this?!” I remember her saying, my drawing tightly crumpled in her hand.

It was also that year when I was forced to join an inter-class Math competition. I grew worried when Miss Flores told me that I may have to spend the whole day in school, a horrifying concept to me back then. On the competition day, I bawled, engulfed by the thought of not being able to go home forever.

For some strange reason, my parents never had me wear undies in first grade. So you could imagine how tense I felt over the threat of punishment – dropping your shorts in front of class. An erring classmate became the only victim of this shame, and everyone was giggling over the sight of white briefs. Another one managed to escape the treachery by endlessly fidgeting with his belt until the teacher grew impatient and ordered him back to his seat.

Going to the restroom was always a delight, with “may I go out” being the universal code to five minutes of freedom. They never really took care of that facility, it bearing the signs of hygiene neglect made more unbearable with the perpetual olfactory assault. But the walk was good, going down the perimeter of the covered court and hearing the muffled cricket chorus from the nearby wood. (Marist school covered a huge land area, but the main campus only used up less than half of it.) The air was almost always cool and comforting.

English was not a problem, since my parents saw it fit to expose the siblings to gobs of English, theorizing that I’d learn Filipino from the everyday interactions in school. But I wasn’t a very sociable kid, and I don’t have much recollection of friendships. This language deficiency would continue for the next couple of years, and I found it miraculous that I was able to pass Pilipino and Araling Panlipunan.

Yes, guardian angels do exist.

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