01 January 2016

Joy and Tragedy: The Story of DLSL High School 1991 Part II


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The problem with the jealous types was that they judged us on the basis of our almost familial relationships within the team. What they did not see was the stern disciplinary standards I forced my players to accept and live with. For instance, few really heard of the time one August morning when I had Ariel Carbonilla in tears after a dose of bitter slanging just because he came to school not wearing his uniform. I also doubt that many heard about the time I slammed Taxi Catalan against the dressing room wall for raising his voice at me, something all my players knew I would never tolerate. Things were never really the same between the little man and myself after that incident, but just to prove my point, how many of the seniors had to put up with that obsessive type of discipline?

Incidentally, not many knew that Jomer Rosales and Ralph Untalan actually tried to join LSFC. Ralph’s singing was definitely so much better than his footwork, so I had to tell him point-blank to try something else. He did: Sepak Takraw! Jomer, on the other hand, seemed a good goalkeeping prospect, even if just as cover for Doc Africa. I’m afraid the lad chickened out even before he got started, probably scared that his made-for-romance body would get all bruised up.

ITALIA ‘90 BLUES

My teaching hit lowest point towards the end of June, as the World Cup in Italy approached the semi-final stage. Twice, I had to wake up at three in the morning to keep up with England’s progress in Italia ‘90. The games were not shown on local television, so I had to listen to BBC World Service on shortwave radio to keep abreast of the latest results. The result: a groggy fourth year History story teacher, so desperately in need of sleep! I still remember being so addled at 206 that my mind was actually blacking out and I was mixing up my words as though I was drunk! About this time, I gave you the State project, the one in which you had to get married to one another. This was a convenient escape act for me while I saw the World Cup through. It was only after Andreas Brehme shot West Germany into World Cup glory that I started to pull my act together.

The State project in History accidentally catalysed the metamorphosis of a certain Allan Cetron into the gay – what a fitting term! – redheaded personality who would soon grace the fourth year corridor. Of the six fourth year classes, 202 had the least number of female students. Hence, a few of the macho men had to change genders for the project to be able to create the required number of couples for each tribe. Allan, as it happened, needed little persuasion to defect to the female camp. So thus came to life the Gretchen Barretto incarnation of our lead character, to be married to a certain Don Ilagan and to bear him twenty-five children in their struggle to build a state which would earn them a passing grade in History.

THE GREAT EARTHQUAKE

The earthquake on July 16 was the most hair-raising experience of my life up to that point, but it also raised some eye-opening insights. We were in the dressing room when it started, my players chatting animatedly among themselves and quite oblivious to the increasing tremors. My back was against the wall when the quake started, and so I felt the vibrations first through the wall as it shook. When I shouted “earthquake!” Janis even thought I was talking about some wrestler with that name! Soon, the tremors became so strong we had to rush out into the open in case the walls collapsed. The sight that greeted us was eerie: the trees swayed although there was no wind, and the ground heaved as though breathing laboriously. As I stayed rooted to the ground, fascinated by the almost surrealistic phenomenon, a few thoughts struck me: the enormity of the universe and the mysterious forces governing it, and how utterly helpless and inconsequential man was in the face of nature’s wrath. It was only then that I knew without any shade of doubt that there had to be a God, for who else could have been behind such enormity?

There was nowhere to run. The buildings could have collapsed, the trees could have fallen to crush us and the earth could have opened to swallow us. We could have been dead in moments, as they also found out in Cabanatuan and Baguio. Remarkably, some third year students still pranced about on the courts and shot their basketballs without a care in the world.

Standard time returned by the end of July, and all of a sudden everyone was in school each morning long before the first bell. What utter bliss at the Moderators’ Office, and we did save a few pads of Student Passes. We had the rains to thank for this, the government finally realizing as the waters of the La Mesa Dam rose what a silly idea DST was to begin with.

The new curtains at the Moderators Office gave us a fiesta atmosphere. The joke of the day was to invite people in to wait “while the pig was being roasted.” We needed greenery, so I dragged a few seniors around the campus to help me “steal” some potted plants. We did it so discreetly that the rightful owners never discovered the plant-nappings. As a coup de grace, Mr. Lingao and I went to Petron to buy air fresheners to hang on the newly-installed ceiling fans.

THE LITTLE LADY WITH A FOLDER

The last time that a PAASCU team came over, I chewed my nails for three days waiting to be observed by one of the visitors. They never came to my classes! I was therefore unconcerned about the PAASCU interim visit, certain that if I was to be observed, it was to be during the latter part of the team’s visit. Holy Camote, who did I find waiting outside 201, my first class of the day, but a strange little lady with a folder in her hands! Press panic buttons! I hastily ushered the lady in, scrambled for my lesson plan and there, voila, was the saving grace. For the day, my lesson plan read, the students would undertake a Bible research project! How was that, Mr. Lingao, PAASCU Coordinator,for a student-cantered approach? The observer, therefore, had nothing to observe and would soon, I reckoned, leave in search of other teachers to fry! Was I ever right! She soon got bored watching 201 students enrapt with Bible passages, and transferred to Mr. Silva’s Filipino class at 203. 1 could have kissed the lady! The very same Mr. Silva had earlier passed by 201 with a smug look on his face, so obviously amused by my state of panic. Ah, karma!

The first of a series of misfortunes to hit LSFC also happened at the start of August. During scrimmage, Rev Nicomedes accidentally slammed a knee into Sid’s ribcage, the impact so strong Sid’s breathing was seriously impaired. It still looked harmless until Sid started complaining of increasing numbness along his arms and face. Only then did I realize that disc trouble! We rushed Sid to Magsino’s Hospital with the help of two college students, and it was only after oxygen was administered that the poor lad began to lose the numbness. A close call, that one! Little was I to know as I heaved sighs of relief that something more grotesque was in store for us.

The arrival of the Stallion blueprint in mid-August lowered my tolerance level for nonsense. Proofreading drained me of energy and made me irritable. At the year level assembly, I screamed invectives at Edsel for talking while the National Anthem was being sung. At other times, I would have let it pass.


A PERSONAL TRAGEDY

Personal tragedy struck on the last week of August. I had gone to Manila to attend a RIFA meeting. As the bus I was riding entered the metropolis, rains the likes of which I had never seen before began to pour and flood the streets of the big city. It was like a dam in the sky suddenly broke loose and a solid wall of water poured all over us. Vehicles stalled and traffic was practically unmoving. I abandoned all thoughts of attending the meeting and simply tried to get home, only to get stranded for eight hours at the bus station. I had to stay on my feet for all of those eight hours so I would not lose my place in the queue. Nobody could really tell when the buses were going to be allowed to leave, so all the passengers had to stay in line.

I did not get home until twelve midnight, only to find my mother seriously ill. We had to take her in an ambulance to the hospital. To this day, I still consider her recovery miraculous. I went to school late for a whole week, since I had to visit the hospital each morning before reporting for work. This sad chain of events severely tested my endurance, but I was extremely touched and encouraged by the compassion showed by the people in school. Even the seniors, as though sensing the trials I was undergoing, gave me no problems at the time.

By September, the rains had become more reasonable. Even the football field started to get hard, allaying my fears that the intramurals would turn it into a mud bath like the year before.

The Intrams were a nice break from the monotony of classroom work. What I saw of it, however, was mostly limited to the football field. I was even forced to referee a few matches, especially when the troublesome juniors were playing. They liked to fight among themselves, you know!

The winner of the fourth year football title was always going to be a foregone conclusion. The LSFC exiles of 206 were just going to be too good for everyone else. Two had trained with the team for as long as three years! Palits Kalalo, in particular, retained most of the skills and balance which made him such a promising varsity player.

There were fights galore during the Intrams. In the red corner, Joel Bautista got himself roughed up by the referee, of all people, during a basketball game. In retrospect, the incident probably served him right for complaining too much about calls. After all, he was not at the Ultra playing for GiƱebra San Miguel! Meanwhile, in the blue corner, heavyweight Noel Villanueva also got into the fight card by beating up some hapless junior, almost got himself kicked out, and became the hottest gossip-item among the frat goonies.

ROMERO

The Religion Department sponsored the showing of the film Romero for the whole community. The Year levels took turns going to an uptown moviehouse to watch the film. The story was decent enough, or so the kids-told me. I never got the chance to view it. Getting all the seniors to town gave me a pounding Moderator’s headache! People in passing vehicles must have thought I was a madman as I screamed across the street at four seniors (and who else but Egil, Gerard, and of course, Edsel and Jomer) who were trying to sneak away from the group into Reynante’s, probably to play cards. The four told me they were just trying to deposit their bags before rejoining their classmates, but I didn’t want to know. They were nervously looking around before hastily getting inside the restaurant, you know, the way spies do in the movies. The fabulous four were, however, the least of my problems. Showtime was delayed, the moviehouse stank of human kidney extract (piss, in other words), and students were packed as tight as sardines inside. I was happy to later get away from the near bedlam.

The RIFA opened in mid-September. My lightweight crew slipped and fumbled on the soggy Greenhills pitch, allowing the home team an irreversible four-nil lead as early as the first half. By the time Ariel managed to shrug off his lethargy and score, Greenhills had actually gone five up. My team was not poor, as we proved in the second half when we pushed Greenhills back to defend in depth. It was just that the present batch suffered from an overblown case of inferiority complex.

RIVERS OF TEARS

The class retreats were largely successful. Br. Jun Estrellas was an excellent retreat master. The batch cried not a river, not an ocean, but a whole planet of tears. The Best Dramatic Performer Award went to Noel Villanueva, who was banging his head on the table as he unloaded his heartaches. The other nominees were: a) Nelson Bancoro for his choice of the lavatory as the place to cry; b) Nonie Cordero for almost fainting four times, the result of a weak heart, and c) Gerald Roman, self-declared tough-job, who swore he would not shed one drop before the retreat but ended up joining the multitude of the cry-babies.

I managed to talk Ms. Blanco into allowing the seniors to have a formal kick-off for the Stallion Drive. I wanted something different, and the fourth year advisers and I reckoned we ought to try a luncheon affair. For a show, we used the SCB’s dance contest and added another contest for choral singing. Mr. Silva coined the show’s title: Seniors’ Encounter Part I.

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