01 February 2017

Forioculture and Typing


One of the more interesting subjects that we had during freshman year – and I say “interesting” with utmost sarcasm – was Agriculture. Of course, years later, I would realize that Agriculture was something that many more boys like me should have taken greater interest in. But at the time, Lipa City was still by and large a rural community; and most high school boys like me were probably ambitioning to get out and live in the big cities rather than become farmers.

At any rate, our Agriculture teacher was this feller from Baguio who went by the name of Mister Forio. Before long, somebody from among my classmates had changed the name of the subject to something irreverent: Forioculture. And that was how we all called it behind his back.

At the very least, Forioculture offered an opportunity to get out of the classroom. We were assigned plots to cultivate on the edge of the oval close to what would become Lorenzo Ruiz Road. I had inherited my father’s green thumb, so I probably had more fun tending to my garden than I cared to admit.

During breaks, some of my classmates and I would even make the short journey to the oval to water our plants and remove weed from the plots. The most popular plant was the tomato. The problem was that not everyone was as diligent as we were; or, sometimes, tragedy would strike and the poor tomato plants would die for some unknown reason just when they were due to be graded by Mister Forio.

Times like this, everyone had to be extra vigilant because there were tomato thieves among us, especially during grading periods. It was not uncommon to find the tomato plant that we had so lovingly and carefully nurtured to be mysteriously standing on somebody else’s plot when Mister Forio was due to inspect and grade these.

I have this vague memory of a Mister Pedro Cuenca taking over our Agriculture class. What I am not so certain of after all these years is if Mister Cuenca took over from Mister Forio in the middle of the school year; or if Agriculture was taught in the sophomore year as well and the former became my teacher the following year. The said Mister Cuenca would become known all over campus as “Yoyong Martirez” because he was the spitting image of the professional basketball player and Olympian Rosalio Martirez.

Freshman year was also when we first learned how to type. This may sound exceedingly trivial in the present day, but back then, being able to type was a big deal. It was one of the things that set us apart from graduates of other schools. In fact, my older sister Rowena, the only one of my siblings who did not go to La Salle, never really learned how to type properly until many years after she graduated from high school. We used to laugh at her about this in the family.

The teaching of typing was very systematic. First, we were required to memorize the positioning of the letters on the keyboard. Before actually using the typewriters, we practiced using the proper fingers on a make-believe keypad drawn on a long folder. Only when the teacher was reasonably certain that we knew which fingers to use did we finally go to the Typing Room.

There were two brands of typewriters for us to use. The first one was the Underwood. These were so antiquated that they would not have looked out of place in a Frankenstein movie. The keys were also horribly resistant to pressure so that one had to press harder to type. The other brand was the Olympia, sleeker in design and obviously also much newer. Crucially, these were also kinder to the fingers.

Although we were assigned to a machine for an entire week and rotated at the start of each week, arguments could still break out if somebody assigned to an Olympia machine was absent. But naturally, everybody wanted to use an Olympia.

There must have been a change of curricula the following year because we had Typing again as a subject in our sophomore year. To my knowledge, ours was the only class of high school students in La Salle to have taken Typing for two consecutive years. This served all of us in good stead. In fact, in college, since I already knew how to type like a clerk, I easily got exemptions from my Typing I and II courses.


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