Thursday, July 03, 2008

Third Year High School– I did not dance Victoria, I got no red shoes.

Dear insansapinas,

Third Year – I did not dance Victoria, I got no red shoes.
salawikaing tagpi-tagpi
My mother was able to get the death benefits and insurance of my dad. The employer gave us construction materials for our own house in the lot that my father bought before he died.

My mom sold them all to buy a jeepney so we can have regular source of income. Some were used to pay off bills that were accumulated when my father was in the hospital.

When enrollment came, my mother told me the bad news. I had to quit school.
When my mother blurted out the news, my mind became blank for a moment then I cried but I did not let her see me. I did not want to hurt her feelings like what I did to my dad. I did not want to repeat what had happened in the early part of my second year before I learned of my dad’s problem in the workplace.

Because we were financially hard-up, my mom could not give me money for my projects.
I thought that it was just her whim. I thought she was just playing favorite to my brothers. I thought that just because, I was now trying hard to make it good in school, she owed me all the support I need. These are the things that I pushed down the recesses of my mind. I tried to forget my youth’s follies. But I find it as a constant reminder to make me a better person.

There was a point that my rebellious streak drove me to decide to run away and go to my friend’s house. The friend with the grocery. Stupid me. I planned to work as a store helper so I can support myself.

My brother caught me when I was about to step out of the house very early morning. I had put all my books and other personal things in a native basket that was used by a relative in sending us the dried fish from Bicol. It smelled bad. But I did not care.

When my father learned about my plan, he did not say anything to reprimand me. He led me out of the house and asked where I was intending to go so he could bring me there himself. He said he’s sorry that he can’t provide for everything. He’s sorry that he failed me. He asked me if I will be happy with my decision to leave my family who will always be there for me. There was no anger in his voice. There was just bitterness. It was bitterness that he felt that he was a failure as a provider. And I was the one who made him felt of his inadequacy. Honestly, it was not my intention to hurt him. If the competition for honor made my classmate a loony, its effect on me was worse. I became an insensitive person.

The short talk of my father shamed me no end. I turned around and went back inside the house. No talks, no nagging, no punishment, No accusatory tones.
Whenever I remember that incident, I felt guilty. That was months before he died. That was a few weeks before he did not resign even though he was demoted. I knew now how he must have reached that painful decision of choosing not to resign over his hurt pride.
He stayed on even if he was no longer happy in his job. He had responsibilities, us. It must have killed him slowly. I thought what I did add to his worries.

I know he cared for me even he was clinging to whatever was consciousness left when he suffered the stroke. He was calling my name when he was in the ambulance. My elder siblings were never a problem to my parents. They were obedient. They never rebelled.

It was me he was worried about. That he’s going to fail me again. That I would never finish my study. Maybe he prayed that he would not die. And maybe that’s why he never has left me after all these years. Maybe that is why I am writing this

I cannot object to my mom’s decision. She had a lot of burden to carry. She had considerably aged over the past months.

I asked her to allow me to go to school and tell the principal that I was not enrolling that year and request him to reserve my scholarship until I come back when we are already financially stable.

The principal knew me because the vocational teacher who was helping me in the projects was his wife.

He wrote a letter addressed to a certain president of an association. I did not know how to get to the place.

I fetched my friend. The one with the grocery but without a father. She consoled me. She said that my father cared for me while she had no idea whether his father was alive or not. (She was sophomore in UP Diliman when the father came back-- sick and her mother took care of him until he died. She accepted the scholarship in UK to get away from it all).

We found the place. We’re lucky to talk to the letter’s addressee. She was sorry however that the scholarship that gives allowance and books to deserving student-applicants was already closed. They’ve finished the selection before the start of the classes.

However, she’s willing to sponsor me from her personal funds. The principal had a very strong recommendation.

She instructed me to see the principal again because she was going to course thru him the monthly stipend. I was happy. I thanked her. I saw her smiled.

I did not tell my mom not until I got the books, the money for the uniform and the month’s allowance.

My mother was quiet. She knew that I was headstrong. She could not stop me from enrolling. I did not see any reaction from her.

My brothers were given part time jobs by my father’s employer. It was one way of showing how he was sorry for what had happened to my dad--the person who saved him a lot of money because he assembled the truck/trailers that he used for his logging business. He arranged the schedules so that they could still go to school in evening classes.

At my lowest point in life at that time, I found a true friend. The fatherless grocer’s daughter. We shared a forged bond—the wish that our fathers would magically reappear. Someday. The topnotcher slowly drifted from us. She was elated to have been accepted by the classmates who belonged to the “Buena familia”. Everyone wanted to get her review materials for long and periodical exams. They were like fruit flies swarming around her.

Behind her back, she was still the bastard who did not deserve an invitation in someone’s birthday. Her table manners were atrocious, they said. She ate her food with her mouth opened with funny sounds. She slurped her soup.She got morsels around her mouth.

The Biology class was a challenge. We had to identify the classification and description of certain organisms. I memorized the kingdom, sub-kingdom-species reciting them in singsong manner to lull my new-born sister to sleep.

I hate the trigonometry. I like the el filibusterismo and the florante at laura.

I became more involved in extracurricular activities especially when I was chosen as delegate to tour selected places in Luzon. Together with me was one of the members of the silver and gold spoon clique. I wonder how she would survive in the trip without her usual yaya. Yes, she was already high school but a yaya came with her carrying her school bag and staying in school until going home.

In the first leg of the trip, we slept in an old school. With her expensive pj and big teddy bear, she dove to my side when the light was off as a signal that it was sleeping time. No more noise, no more eating snacks and no more loitering around.

Who would loiter in that spooky place?

In Pangasinan, she huddled close to me when we boarded a motor boat to see the Hundred Islands. Her hands never left my arm. I felt that I was a nanny who had a frightened ward.

In Calamba where we visited Jose Rizal’s home, she was like a small kid whose eyes
grew big after seeing the small clothes of the national heroes.

In Tarlac, we visited the house of Leonor Rivera, the Maria Clara in the Noli Me Tangere.

Down south, we reached Legaspi, Albay, Sorsogon, Camarines Sur. I wondered where my relatives were. Yes, we saw the splendor of Mt. Mayon. We climbed Mt. Isarog. She was panting, asking me to wait for her. But she changed a lot. She became more independent until she got sick together with other girls when we were about to go to a beach.

I took care of her. She clung to me like I was her sister. Me who she ignored in the class because I was not born with proverbial silver spoon in my mouth. She became a close friend. (She worked in an embassy after graduation and married a foreigner).

We came home in one piece. We missed a lot of quizzes. The principal warned me of my extra-curricular activities. I was neglecting my academics.

I was inundated with meetings, practices in the drama and toastmaster’s clubs. My world expanded outside the class.

My foster parent called for me. She got no children of her own. Do I like to go with her to the States?

I told my mom. Again she was quiet.

After the final exams, my mother told me that we were leaving. I asked where? We’re going back to Bicol. She felt alone raising us kids in the city where she might lose us anytime.

I had never the chance to say goodbye to my friends, the principal and the foster parent.


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