01 February 2017

That Ugly Little School Called La Salle


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In 1969, what I once swore I would never do, i.e. go to that ugly little school called La Salle, I really had no recourse but to do. If I am being honest, as early as the previous year when I was a Grade Four student at OLRA, my mind had started to wrap itself around the notion that I might actually break my oath and move. I knew that most of my classmates were also transferring, so it really would be a case of being in a new environment but with the same familiar faces.

This and the fact that OLRA under the Canossians was not for some reason quite the same as OLRA under the Maryknoll Sisters made the prospect of moving actually sound somewhat appealing. In fact, in 1969, while I was not quite prepared to admit it to my sister Rowena, I was actually starting to get excited about the prospect of going to La Salle.

La Salle then was nothing like what it has become in the present day. On the eastern side of the five-hectare school property, there were just the original three red-bricked buildings whose names I never really bothered to memorize because everyone just conveniently called them the 100-, 200- and 300-wings. On the western side was this white two-story building whose name I had not bothered to memorize either, but which everyone just called the 400- or 500-wing, depending on which floor one was.

At the far end of this building was a barbed wire fence that separated the school’s property from a coconut grove. It wasn’t until many years later that I learned that the adjoining lot was owned by the De La Salle Brothers, but not by the school.

Sandwiched by the two story building and the three red-bricked wings was the gymnasium. At the time, the gym was just this covered court for students to hang out or shoot baskets during breaks. Next to it was this small building with an iron-railed window that we called the canteen but was, in fact, just a store that sold refreshments during Recess and lunch break.

In front of the canteen were rows of wooden tables conveniently made available for students who lived too far from school and could not go home for lunch. I always did, of course. Among the perks of being an Air Force brat was that there was the choice of a 6x6 truck or a weapons carrier for transportation each day. Travel to and from the base must have been five or so minutes.

Behind the school were a concrete playing court and a football field. It was all really quite unpretentious. The football field was still lined on either side by coconut trees. After storms, the field would be littered with fronds and nuts.

Just to the north of the field was the railroad line. The tracks were, at the time, still functional. Because the view from the 400- and 500-wings was still unobstructed, occasionally we would catch sight during classes of train engines pulling cars. These cars were laden with sugarcane, though; and the general understanding in those days was that the trains brought these to the refinery in Canlubang.

Everyone, however, just sort of assumed that there was once a passenger train service that ran from Lipa to Batangas City and vice-versa. First of all, there was an abandoned station at the corner of the tracks and what is now known as Lorenzo Ruiz Road. Second, tracks crossed the road in Tambo, and all vehicles needed to slow down to roll over these.

These tracks, in fact, had found their way into student lingo. “Tayo sa riles! (To the rails)” was universally understood as a challenge to a fistfight at the railway tracks.

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