01 January 2016

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



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Ariel and Archie never had a chance. Alloysius Pasia fractured an arm in a motorcycle accident. Manuel Africa had a prolonged spell in the hospital with some virus. Nanette Aca lost four teeth after being swiped by a jeepney. Even Hanzel Altamirano had a little car accident during the fair. And believe me you, Doc Africa, who liked to think that graduation had put an end to the trend, spent several days in a hospital with bad cuts and bruises after being thrown off Sid’s jeep. This was late in April, long after graduation! What was going on? There were too many A-accidents for it to be coincidental, yet what did it all mean?

At least, I was not the only one who was being superstitious. People told me to light four candles on the spot where Ariel was killed so his spirit would not become earthbound. I did that. People also told me to have the fourth year classrooms and corridor blessed. I did that, too. Remember the Rosary Procession around the oval? Ostensibly, that was a Lenten offering by the whole community. Well, to be honest, it was. But it was also supposed to drive away whatever evil spirits there were in the neighbourhood!

I doubt that many of you realised the stress I had to live with at the time. I was a good actor; I hid the stress well. Underneath, I was close to becoming a nervous wreck! At odd times, my heart would suddenly start to beat wildly or my temples would begin to throb. Anything out of the ordinary sent chills down my spine. I slept and ate poorly, having difficulty getting rid of the feeling of being trapped in a spell of impending doom.

But God’s ways are indeed mysterious. He puts us through horrible trials, then He Himself sends us the inner strength to withstand it all. I survived alright, but I knew He was there all the time! When nothing seems to be going right, and everything seems to be falling apart, it is really up to us to trust in God alone. .He is our Shepherd, that much I discovered, and He looks after His own.

THE SCHOOL FAIR

The school fair was more subdued than previous ones, but it was a last chance to put things into perspective and make some contact once again with reality. Ms. Benevolence Blanco showed her appreciation of the successful Stallion Drive by treating all students to free rides. As I watched many of you scampering for the caterpillar seats, I could not help but be thoroughly amused. You looked more like graders than graduating seniors. If I was hardly seen in the fairgrounds, it was because I was trying to do something about the pile of quizzes I had accumulated. If you were one of those rebuffed when you tried to handcuff me, then now you know why I was so grouchy!

After the fair, it was just for you a matter of sailing for port. There was the usual scrambling to beat deadlines for the various projects, and many of you seemed to have developed unusual skills in cramming. How unfortunate that a certain Eric Aggarao did not even bother to cram, wearing my patience thin and almost having himself chopped to pieces – by me, if I had a samurai – before he turned in his group’s History project. Love, indeed, is blind; it makes you fail to see your project deadline. Disappointed as I was with Eric, I certainly had no complaints about his tall goddess of love, Venus herself come to life.

As February drew to a close, I became a cauldron of conflicting emotions. On the one hand, I felt so utterly bone-weary and wanted nothing more than for the year to end. That would take the responsibility of taking care of you off my sagging shoulders. On the other hand, I hated the very thought of graduation because it would bring to an abrupt and undeserved end the close rapport that I struggled to build and then thoroughly enjoyed with your batch.

STALLION DAY

There was one last chance in March to savour again the close camaraderie that had been a distinct feature of your school year. This was during the Stallion Day for the Seniors. The format was patterned after that of the Faculty Day. We had games in the morning, a mini-recollection in the afternoon, then Holy Mass to end the day.

Many of you had the gravest reservations about Stallion Day, and rightly so. You all felt cheated, having conditioned yourselves to expect a grand, end of-year, all-night-dance. I thought otherwise. Having seen the faculty in various degrees of hysteria during the faculty day games, I was certain that what we had planned for the seniors would be a smash hit.

And it was! Jomel Ferrer and Erwin Abjelina tried hard to look sensational, even wiggling their hips seductively as they walked, but there was absolutely no doubt as to who would win the Ms. Photogenic and Ms. Universe titles. Gretchen was the runaway winner, even if I suspected her busts were padded. Shirley Aquino was transformed into a horrifying creature of the night, while Arvin Austria was a right sorry mess, all the rouge on his burnt complexion making him look more like a chocolate cake with red icing rather than the werewolf he was made up to be. You did not care that the undergrads were still going through the sheer agony of classes. You laughed till your sides ached, you, screamed, you jeered, you scampered, you played, you had a fantabulous time!

For the afternoon, we were supposed to hold tributes to your six advisers. Unfortunately, the CAT bivouac was held over the weekend and you had no time to prepare. I had to think fast for an alternative activity! The best choice was a mini-recollection to be followed by the collection of signatures. If you thought the afternoon’s activity was a pre-planned affair, well, that was what you got for believing in me too much. I had you duped all the time. Incidentally, many thanks to Mr. Boy Scout Silva for the High School Life soundtrack.

For graduation practice, I changed my name to Oscar the Grouch. I was mean, I was fault-finding, I was sour, I was scolding all the time! How do I explain it? I was edgy, uptight, nervous, which incidentally all mean the same thing. I wanted to send you off with fireworks, because God knew you deserved it!


THE END TO A GOOD THING

And so graduation finally put an end to a good thing I had going for me for two years. Never mind that some 206 boys, still begging for attention, held an impromptu bowing contest. The mood for graduation was light-hearted, sometimes becoming exuberant. There was just the slightest twinge of sadness, for the parting of ways is never easy. The singing of the alma mater song, loudest ever, summed it all for you: your passions, your dreams, your hopes, and your fears. For me, you were singing the last refrain of a song that spanned two years, a song which told of bliss and pain, of life and death, of exaltation and misery, of the saga of a batch which crossed my path when I was hounded by self-doubt and uncertainty and lifted me to heights where only eagles dared.

POSTSCRIPT:

I could have written this in two days. Instead, I took two weeks! I actually spent more time reliving the school year than either writing or typing. Writing about January and February proved to be the most difficult. It was like poking a finger at a fresh wound. I bled all over again. I did not like writing about graduation either. That was putting an end to THE good thing for a second time. I wrote in the first person because I wanted you, to see things as I saw them. Believe this is a better piece than the ones I wrote for the ‘88 and ‘89 Yearbooks. It is more personal. It is my graduation gift to you. It is also for Ariel, Archie, and their brave Moms, curiously both named Elvie; for my advisers, who treated you as their own; for LSFC ‘91, who did not win matches like their predecessors but shared my pains and my burdens; and for this little yellow car who often fought me tooth and nail, but also knew how to console me, just like true sons do!

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