20 November 2014

When ‘Lasallian’ Replaced ‘Lasallite’

This picture was taken during the Lasallian Youth Congress which I did not discover until recently was in the Archives.
My lips almost involuntarily smiled at the sight of Lim Em Beng, a living legend of the DLSU Green Archers, in this nostalgic video about the great rivalry between the Archers and the Blue Eagles. I missed him by a year. He had graduated by the time I enrolled at DLSU in 1975, so I missed the great NCAA championship-winning team.

It made me smile all the more when he used the word ‘Lasallites’ instead of the by-now more conventional ‘Lasallians.’ Most of us raised by the De La Salle Christian Brothers up to the seventies almost unconsciously think of ourselves still as Lasallites or, in the vernacular, Lasallistas.

The more contemporary word Lasallian, if memory serves me right, was being pushed for usage in the Philippine District of the Christian Brothers only by the early eighties. In fact, this was the theme of the third Lasallian Youth Congress to which I was sent to deliver a speech early in 1985 by then DLSL Principal Br. Jaime Dalumpines. It was being hosted by DLSU-Manila in its Taft campus.

In February 1985, I was just 25 years old. Thus, the question that I just had to ask Br. Jaime when he told me that I was going was, “Why me?” He said that the organisers wanted a teacher’s perspective; and this was assigned to De La Salle Lipa. In that case, I asked Br. Jaime, would it not be more appropriate if he sent the more senior teachers instead?


By the time I had got around to talking about our antics in the varsity football team, everyone was laughing at and applauding my silly tales. To think that I was seriously thinking of sprinting out the door just moments earlier.
At the time, however, I was the only DLSU graduate among the faculty. I suppose Br. Jaime was right when he told me that I was being sent because I could find my way to and from the Taft campus without ending up in the evening news begging for someone to come get me.

I wanted to know what I was supposed to talk about. He told me that I was supposed to discuss how a teacher perceived the difference between a Lasallite and a Lasallian. Fine, I told him; but there was a little problem. I did not know what a Lasallian was.

As far as I was concerned, I was a Lasallite or a Lasallista, which was how I thought of myself from the day that I first set foot on this little school named La Salle High School in Lipa City.

Br. Jaime gave me this rather vague explanation about the term Lasallian being pushed to replace the word Lasallite because the latter had over the years developed a rather elitist connotation that the Brothers wanted to dissociate themselves from.

Elitist was not exactly something one would use to describe De La Salle Lipa back in the early eighties when I was a young teacher; but I had been to DLSU.  Thus, I had a fairly good notion of what the Brothers were trying to achieve by pushing the use of the word Lasallian.

I was never the spontaneous type; so I preferred to write a two-page speech on this clickety-clack portable typewriter that we had at home. I felt foolish all the time writing about something I knew so little about; but even then, I was always the literary type and could expound even on a skimpy idea.

Because I was going to speak to students from La Salle schools around the country, I thought that I would write about my life at the Taft campus: how big a deal we made of the rivalry we had with Ateneo; how we berated other schools during NCAA matches; even my experiences playing for the varsity football team.

Finally, the day came; and I went pale at the sight of the other speakers, all distinguished educators in administrative positions at different La Salle schools around the country.  The most distinguished was Br. Rafael Donato, who was then Brother Visitor of the Philippine Province.

I was mentally kicking Br. Jaime in the butt for having sent me.  The company I found myself in was way above my league. Among my pet peeves in life is making a fool of myself; and that event looked at the time like one occasion when it was a certainty that I would end up looking like a fool.

It did not help that we were sat down panel-style on the stage facing the audience; and that I sat next to Br. Rafael. I knew him as our Principal when I was an elementary schoolboy; and he would years later become my boss in top administration. At that moment, though, I was unnerved sitting next to him.

More so when he started talking about what a Lasallian was supposed to be without even the benefit of anything written. He was so spontaneous as he talked about a Lasallian being one who lived the virtues propounded by the founder; and that these virtues, he said, were the same as Christian values. In other words, he said, to be Lasallian was to be Christian.

I was the last speaker before one of the students gave a response; and the administrators who spoke ahead of me all talked along the same lines as Br. Rafael. I was seriously thinking of ripping my speech to shreds; but then what would I talk about? So I mentally kicked Br. Jaime in the butt again!

When I was finally introduced, I stood up and went to the rostrum and gave this lame excuse about needing something to lay my speech down on. Frankly, I just wanted to get away from the panel. If I was going to make a fool of myself, at least I would be closer to the door.

I began reading my speech fingers crossed. The audience looked exhausted from having listened to all the speakers ahead of me. Frankly, for almost the entirety of the first page, I did not think that anyone was listening. I just wanted to get it over with.

I was almost surprised when there were a few guffaws when I read about the ‘Blue Eggless’ shirts that they used to sell at Archer’s Nook in front of the school. Apparently there were a few listening. Everyone started to look at me and really pay attention when I talked about the invectives we used to shout at Ateneo in NCAA basketball games.

By the time I had got around to talking about our antics in the varsity football team, everyone was laughing at and applauding my silly tales. To think that I was seriously thinking of sprinting out the door just moments earlier.

All the other speakers got polite applause at the end of their talks. I received – drum roll please – a standing ovation! To this day, I have not really gotten over getting a standing ovation for a speech that touched so little on the topic that I was assigned. Compared to the other speakers, content-wise my speech was crap; but the kids loved it.

The next day, by the time I bumped into Br. Jaime, he had apparently heard from the grapevine about what happened the previous day at DLSU. He could not stop congratulating me. Of course, I did not tell him how many times I kicked him in the butt inside my head for sending me there.

By the way, to this day, when I do not watch myself, I still always tend to refer to myself as Lasallista. Some habits just do not die out at all.




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