01 February 2017

An Unplanned Trip to Sir Cris Zarate's Home


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My Homeroom Adviser during my freshman year was a colorful guy named Jack Guia. For some reason, people called him Mister de Guia. I never figured out why. The yearbooks always just said Guia.

It was something of a novelty to have a male Homeroom Adviser, my first ever because all my advisers since elementary prior to this year were all females. He was also our teacher in Introductory Science. If I am being honest, I didn’t think he was awfully good at his job. Besides, while I liked Science, it was never as though I would prioritize it over the languages, which even then I knew was more my line.

I did get to hang out with him once in a while, though, as did many of his students. There was this one afternoon during a weekend or a holiday – I don’t really recall – when I was in school with a couple of friends and he passed by and asked if we wanted to come along on a road trip. He said that he had arranged with Brother James, whom I knew from football, to visit the home of Mister Crisanto Zarate. The latter was another of the school’s colorful personalities. I knew him even during my elementary years because he taught in classrooms near ours and I could see that he was popular among the high school students.

I suppose my friends and I simply assumed that Mister Zarate lived close by, so we all agreed to come along. We met up with Brother James outside the Brothers’ House where the school’s trusty Volkswagen Kombi was parked. Mister Guia got onto the seat beside Brother James, who was driving; while my friends and I got on the seat behind them.

It was when we were already on our way that we learned that we were visiting Mister Zarate’s home in… Lucena City! My friends and I didn’t have permission from home, but none of us even thought it mattered. It was just the way things were back then when school life was so much more uncomplicated. These days, students can’t even go on a road trip without having their parents sign all sorts of waivers.

I had been to Lucena before; but whenever my family went there, we always took the longer Sto. Tomas route. This time, we were going through the backdoor via the town of Rosario. There were even patches of rough road along the way, but the trip was still tons of fun. Aside from the incessant chatter, I also found the scenery fascinating. There were hectares upon hectares of rice fields and coconut groves!

It was late when we got back, but Brother James drove all three of us friends to our respective homes. Even if my mother was annoyed at my being late, her annoyance would have quickly dissipated at the sight of Brother James ascending our veranda to explain where we’d been.

I don’t know exactly when the Brothers’ paddle was laid to rest; and corporal punishment inside the classroom by the seventies, I suppose, had already become illegal. But the paddle had a very annoying replacement indeed: the jog. Students who were habitually absent or late or those who had accumulated itty-bitty little offences could be sent out to the field to jog around the oval as punishment. The number of laps around the oval depended on the gravity of one’s offence.

I wasn’t the sort to get “on the wrong side of the law,” if you get my drift; so I was not overly concerned about this particular type of punishment. Besides, even if I was the sort, I was an athlete, anyway; and jogging would have been a piece of cake for me.

There was this one time, however, when our entire class was sent out to the field to jog as punishment by our Math teacher, Miss Gloria Lacay. Most of us had known Miss Lacay since our OLRA days. Like Miss Alice Rivera, she had transferred to La Salle after the departure of the Maryknoll Sisters. I was particularly familiar with her because she had also been a teacher to my older sister Rowena and brother Ronaldo. I personally liked her both inside and outside of the classroom.

Although I was in the A-section, our class could also be picky about the teachers under whom we all behaved. I will not be immature and crow about how unruly we were in high school. Alumni like to do that when reminiscing about high school life.

However, adolescents will always be adolescents and, at the end of the day, what goes on inside the classroom always boils down to this thing called classroom management. And classroom management, while it can be learned by teachers, to my mind is also to a large extent dependent on the teacher’s own personality.

I have known teachers who were excellent sources of content or information, but just didn’t have the savvy to manage classes. The simple truth has always been that no learning can ever take place unless a teacher can capture and subsequently hold the students’ attention.

Miss Lacay’s was this kindly personality that made students gravitate towards her; and, in fact, I considered her among my favorite teachers. But it was this kindly personality that was of little use inside the classroom, at least as far as my own class was concerned. Under her, my class just became this unwieldy beast that was something of a daily noise factory, everyone talking at the same time even while Miss Lacay was trying to teach.

One day she had enough of the carnival and sent us out to the field to jog as punishment. The jogging itself was not too bad at least for me. What was so annoying was having to run wearing the school uniform, leather shoes and all. Ditto returning to the classroom afterwards when everyone stank of sweat.

Poor Miss Lacay gave up on us after this. Brother Greg, who was already our teacher the previous year when we were still in Grade Six, came in to take her place. And, of course, we immediately became meek as newly-born kittens.

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