01 February 2017

The Simplicity of Elementary Life at La Salle


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The school uniform at the time was the same as in OLRA: white polo shirt and brown khaki pants, liberally starched as was the order of the day. The crest sewn onto the left breast pocket was round with the name of the school and a coconut tree in the middle, something that announced to all and sundry that the school was built over what used to be a coconut grove.

Inside the breast pocket, we all had a neatly folded handkerchief. Inside one pocket of our pants, we all carried rosaries. Every week, there was an inspection of these. Ditto to see that our ears had been cleaned of wax and our fingernails weren’t in mourning.

Failure to comply with these expectations earned us demerits; and an accumulation of these could earn us a rap on the knuckles with Miss Alice Rivera’s Orion ruler.

Yes, the Miss Rivera. Alumni and alumnae of La Salle who graduated in the eighties and nineties will remember her as a fourth year high school teacher, but the simple truth is that she was among the greatest, and certainly one of my most beloved, of our elementary teachers.

She used to be something of a legend in OLRA but resigned and transferred to La Salle when the Maryknoll Sisters departed. Before the Canossians arrived, students used to talk about the Guno-Rivera “punch.”

Guno was Miss Isabel Guno, my Grade Four Homeroom Adviser, and an excellent teacher in Language along with Penmanship. Whatever students learned under her was reinforced when they moved up to Grade Five, when Miss Rivera took over. Things changed, of course, when Miss Rivera eventually transferred to La Salle.

But since we were transferring to La Salle as well, we would still be beneficiaries of that famed one-two punch. In fact, I don’t believe I would be alone in crediting my class’ excellence in Language to the influence of both teachers.

Like Miss Guno, Miss Rivera was also my Homeroom Adviser in Grade Five. We were at Room 400, which at the time was divided by a wall in the middle to make Room 400A and 400B. Ours was the one closer to the staircase.

School life was remarkably simple. After the daily singing of the National Anthem and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, everyone quietly entered the classroom and remained standing for the prayer. Miss Rivera’s favorite prayer was Angel of God, my Guardian Dear. I can still vividly visualize her leading the class in saying the prayer, her palms held up together as she was probably taught by the nuns. It was probably from her that I picked up my own firm belief in angels.

After prayers was the reading of the daily bulletin. The bulletin, as it is in the present day, was a daily digest read out to the class by the Homeroom Adviser or a student she assigned, and then posted onto the Bulletin Board for review later by anyone who cared. In those days, the bulletin seldom went beyond five or six lines, in contrast to the epic novels they became in the nineties and onwards. The community was small and it was often quicker to pick up news from the grapevine.

But there was this really hilarious item that I remember to this very day because the entire class broke out into hysterical laughter. It was a lost and found item that read: “Lost, the bag of Ferdinand Dimawala.” Insane laughter.

Ferdinand was a year ahead of me and I played some football with him. The guy whose surname, directly translated, means “never lost,” somehow contrived to lose something. The humor of the announcement was irresistible to a class of Grade Five boys.

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