01 January 2016

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


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The dance contest far overshadowed the choral singing. Meinrad, Michael, and Gideon managed not to drop the girls and won first place for 203 and Mrs. Latay. The lambada number of 201 only managed second place, though the suggestive gyrations of Gerald Lara and Frederick Tolentino had female hearts beating wildly.


RUDE RUUD

The Stallion Drive was a source of embarrassment on the first few weeks. The undergrads got off to a flying start, leaving you trailing in the dust. I was no stranger to the year level, and knew that seniors always stepped on the gas towards the homestretch. Still, there was definitely something askew about the undergrads – and even the kindergarten tots – dominating the Stallion list printed each day in the bulletin.

Things came to a head on the morning of the first counting. Six grouchy advisers had nothing but complaints, urging me to do something about the seniors’ devil-may-care, come-what-may attitude towards the Drive. I decided then that it was time to speak to the seniors. I had given you a lot of space before that, aware as I was that you were kept busy by the exams. Still, if there was any effort from you, I really never heard of it! So thus, you had to listen to that prolonged, threatening sermon in the gym.

Ruud Jose could not quite grasp the point of the homily and stormed into Ms. Blanco's office, demanding to know “why Mr. Torrecampo was forcing the seniors to reach their Stallion quotas.” My word, but that was rude, Ruud! I was so affronted I gave 206 a thorough, inch by inch artillery bombardment! Didn’t they know, I asked Al Pacino style, that not a single centavo from the Drive went into my pocket? Couldn’t, they tell, I groaned, this time a la Robert de Niro, that the money, the filthy, dirty, rotten, stinking money, was the least of my concerns? Couldn’t they see, I croaked in slurred Brando fashion, that I only wanted the batch to be the best in every bloody thing?

All the bitter, Academy Award-winning melodrama seemed to work because 206 imposed a day-long closed-door policy to try and put the house back to order. Ms. Baby Rosales, who also had a cold war with her advisory class, remained sceptical about the whole sorry business. She had every right to be. A class of Australian parrots, mynahs, cockatoos, and macaws does not turn into monks of the silent order after a day of self-examination. Class 206 matured somewhat after the incident, but it was too much to hope for them to really learn when to shut up.

METALLIC NIGHTMARES

Perhaps I would always remember October for one incident which I definitely consider the most embarrassing moment of my life as coach of LSFC. Ironically, it did not happen on the football field! My players, not really famous for bravery, finally showed some guts in the noontime show, shredding to pieces GNR’s romantic ballad “Patience.” If they had only bothered to ask, I could have told them that God, in His Wisdom, made them football players so they would not, repeat, not have to sing! If I discovered anything at all from our attending Masses together, it was that Taxi, Doc, Nelson, Janis, and most especially Jomel could not sing. If only they had the good sense not to wear the team jacket! Then Ms. Malou Rosales, the benevolent Homeroom Adviser of the metallic nightmares, could have taken the abuse which followed all by herself.

In November, I suddenly found myself in such exalted company. The Justice and Peace Campaign was being kicked off and I knew that Miriam Defensor-Santiago had been invited to be the keynote speaker. Hell’s bells! I discovered the meaning of the word “flustered” that morning! I came to school wearing my favourite washday garb – that is, t-shirt, denims, and sneakers – and was quite unconcerned about the day’s activities, only to be handed the curriculum vitae of Dr. Santiago and told that I was to introduce the famous lady to the assembly. Typical Ms. Blanco, giving me such short notice! I therefore had to rush home to get some decent clothes, and did not even bother going to 201 as I struggled to finish writing the introduction piece. Photo-finish: she arrived just as I was writing the last sentence!

Anyway, didn’t we all fall in love with the female tough-job? We were all ears as she spoke, and applauded her anecdotes heartily. We even lined up for her autograph. You were so well-behaved I felt so proud of you that morning.

Having lunch with Mrs. Santiago was an affair way out of my league. I mean, I had never before sat across a person who had first-hand accounts of the powers-that-be! She was blunt enough to admit tome that she had presidential ambitions, and I was candid enough to tell her that she had already won my vote.

I wonder how many of your really performed the “good deeds” we asked of you for the Justice and Peace Month? The jars we offered at the culminating Mass with Fr. Manny were so filled that I suspected many of the strips of paper were insincere. Did you really help an old man cross the street, or help wash the dishes at home? Did you really spend the evenings chatting with your parents and then kiss them goodnight? Did you really refrain from cheating for a week and help your classmates to study? Did you really do all those things or were you just being rotten, insensitive, adolescent creeps?

4TH YEAR CONFESSIONS

I pestered Br. Bong to arrange Confessions for the Batch before the Justice and Peace campaign came to an end. I thought the most positive contribution we could make was to have all seniors receive Communion during the culminating Mass.

The 205 Confessions had some remarkable sideshows. For instance, Taxi’s turn with the priest was taking so long my eyebrows were beginning to rise. Yet, I was not really surprised because I knew, from first-hand experiences, that my little kid could be such a big bag of mischief! What was more remarkable to me was seeing Ariel stalking out of the seminary chapel in tears. I knew the poor son was having emotional problems, but I had not realised things had become so bad even his faith was becoming tarnished. Outside, much to my chagrin, Ariel told me that he no longer believed in Confession, that it did not work, anyway. Patiently, I tried to explain to him that the sacrament was just like food. Even the best gourmet food, I reasoned, would be worthless if one’s taste buds were not working properly. Whether Confession really worked or not really depended, I said, on the person receiving the sacrament!

Enlightened, Ariel rejoined his classmates and confessed to the priest. Later, I was so touched by the sight of him crying his heart out as he knelt to do Penance, having finally made peace not only with his Creator but also with himself.

November was also the month for career exposures. I went with the Agri-Vet group to LIMCOMA and to the Bautista Farm in Lodlod, or should I say London, Mr. Lingao? We were a small, compact group of twenty or so seniors packed in Ka Cardo’s jeepney. In that group, I was able to observe that our efforts to break down the walls separating the senior classes had started to bear fruit. The seniors I had with me were so comfortable with each other that it was as though they all came from the same class!

Who could have expected that poignant little gesture I received from those big apes of 202 the Tuesday after they got back from their retreat? They locked the doors and stood me in the middle, then Pretty Boy Vince Cruz rose to recite a corny thank-you-so-much-for-your-support piece on behalf of the class. Afterwards, Robert Alabanza stood up and gave me this large gift-wrapped box which contained, would you believe, a Zippo lighter! The fools had warned me to bring out my hanky just in case. Boy, were they ever so right! That day, the tiresome, frequently thankless job as moderator became such a distinct pleasure!


EYE OF THE TIGER

I started December in bed, quite sick and miserable! You would be too, if you had to go to the loo a million times in one night. Dehydrated, I had to stay abed for a couple of days. On the afternoon of the third day, I went to school. By that time, I could have written a baby-thesis on why lizards do not fall off from the ceiling. Anyway, the reception I received from the seniors, particularly class 206, was nothing short of remarkable! You were actually glad to see me back! I always thought that when the cat was away, the mice played. I discovered later that in your case, when the cat was away, the tiger took over for the day! If I had been so miserable lying in bed, you were equally miserable having Ms. Blanco patrol the corridor in my place. My advisers and I gave the Principal a lot of good-natured flak for that!

As Christmas approached, we ourselves started receiving flak, and certainly not of the good-natured type, from other sectors in the community. A school paranoid about frats suspected many fourth year boys of recruitment each time they visited other year levels. My advisers and I were even accused of spoiling the seniors, something I was prepared to publicly deny! At any rate, though at first we were prepared to rise up in arms, we ultimately decided it would be more prudent to do something that would repair the declining image.

Hence, the Council of Senior Advisers and Officers decided to hold the Kapatiran program with the Grade School kids. It was originally conceived as a peace offering to the school, a gesture of goodwill as Christmas approached. Jeez, but the event went far beyond my wildest expectations! I saw seniors riding kids on their backs and shoulders, or just carrying them in their arms. The canteen was a hub of activity as graders begged for more ice cream, slush, tortilloes and spaghetti. You happily obliged! It was a lovely, friendly day, and I could not say often enough how pleased I was with the batch at the time. Why, even our most dedicated critics were forced into smiles of pleasure!

CHRISTMAS DECADES

And so the mood was right for the following night’s Christmas Show. Ms. Baby Rosales gave the concept for the show, something the other advisers and I expanded and developed in our meetings. Tired of the usual song and dance numbers, we decided that we would present collage numbers of the six decades starting from the fifties.

But before all that, we held the annual Kalabasa Awards. This was well-applauded, and the laughter resounded in the gym as each embarrassed awardee ascended the stage. Our intermission numbers livened up the party. There was Mr. Silva serenading Ms. Malou Rosales, a number that nearly brought the house down. There was also near-pandemonium when Laura Brannigan sang a song for us, and wasn’t it just amazing that she looked remarkably like Jun Toledo? She even invited me to dance onstage; alas for her, my feet worked wonders on the football field, but never on the dance floor.

I found the decades a source of endless delight. 205’s musical summation of the fifties was charming, though I could not really identify with it. Think what you like, but I was born as that decade ended, so whatever I knew of it came from books and movies. My feet started tapping to the sixties beat, something more familiar, and I found 203’s moon landing cute if a little lacking in technology. It was 201’s version of the seventies that I thoroughly enjoyed. It revived memories of my own high school and college life. Of course, I knew every song. I only wished Mr. Silva’s taste wasn't so plebeian, and that he had included prominent acts like the Eagles, the Doobie Brothers, Bread, James Taylor, America, to name a few.

The ghost of Teddy Diaz interrupted Dondon Pleyto’s version of the Dawn’s “Salamat.” Joke. Someone must have accidentally tripped the cords. I found 206’s “Miss Saigon” and “Ghost” interpretations really lovely and sophisticated, but I could not understand what business Gretchen had playing the devil in the year 2000.1 mean, I always imagined the devil to be more masculine!

SURREALISTIC EFFECTS

I was loathe to end the affair, but it was close to two in the morning and even good things had to come to an end. But if it had to end, at least we did it in the true spirit of Christmas, so filled with love and goodwill. The view from the stage was beautiful beyond belief! Three hundred candles moving around in the dark gave the gym visual effects that would have embarrassed Steven Spielberg! I was so glad we had the whole thing videotaped, to view over and over again until I get to a ripe old age.

Significantly, while the seniors were going around kissing fellow seniors and shaking hands, Ariel broke away from the body to give me a hug and wish me a Merry Christmas. He was the first of my players and of the seniors to do so. If I had been a more emotional person, I would have broken down and cried because of the gesture. I mean, not all my players understood my role as coach, and that often, I just had to be the person to fire the bullets! Taxi, for one, often avoided me as though I had the plague. But there was Ariel, and I had not really been Mr. Nice Guy to him, not by a long shot! And the way he was clinging to me, it was as though we would not see each other for a long, long time!

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