01 February 2017

La Salle ng Lipa... A Fairly Stupid Name for a School


I am not entirely certain about this because it has been almost half a century since, but I think it was during sophomore year that we were told to write La Salle ng Lipa on the upper right corner of our pad papers whenever we had quizzes or major tests. I am not certain that this was even a formally registered name because the license to operate was as La Salle High School.

This was something that I found annoying; and even more so because we had to think of the school by that name for the remainder of high school. While English was the medium of instruction except during Filipino classes, Tagalog was the preferred medium of communication outside the classroom.

This did not mean, however, that we weren’t any good in English. If anything, I always took pride in how meticulously we were taught the language since our elementary days. The favored method of teaching English grammar at the time was called diagramming, which taught students to break down parts of a sentence and master where each part ought to be situated.

Years later, Brother Rafael would tell me that the diagramming method was abandoned by educators because it was found to be ineffective. Oh really? I swear my grasp of English grammar is something I owe to the hours upon hours of diagramming spent under Miss Guno and Miss Rivera.

Of the La Salle schools in the country, Lipa was the only one to have been given a Filipino name. I thought that we were being unfairly branded. It was as though the entire world was being told that we weren’t any good in the English language, which could not be farther from the truth. I’ll be the first to admit that I have never been any good in Math and its allied subjects; and as far as this argument is concerned, consider me Exhibit A. Not just me, mind. Many of my classmates, on the other hand, were very proficient in English but like I was had little affection for Math.

I asked Brother Rafael many years later how that silly name came to be. His explanation was something of a surprise. Prior to 1970, De La Salle operations in the Philippines used to be governed by the District of San Francisco in the West Coast of the United States. The Filipino Brothers, he explained, had to “fight” for the establishment of their own district. The fact that he preferred to use the polo barong over the robe was because doing so was among the statements he and other Brothers of his generation felt that they needed to make when they were still lobbying for the creation of their own district.

The Philippine District was finally created in 1970. That the school in Lipa was given a Filipino name, he told me, was part of that desire to establish a Filipino identity for the new district. Of course, he failed to explain why the school in Mandaluyong was not renamed to La Salle ng Greenhills. Funny this, huh? Wouldn’t have sat well with those English-speaking brats.

Also in my sophomore year, we had this subject called Mechanical Drawing. This was ostensibly a preparatory subject for those among us who would go on and take up engineering courses in college. Because, as I had earlier written, I was never really into Mathematics and, therefore, knew that engineering would be out of my league, it was not as though I was jumping up and down with joy at the thought of taking up this drawing subject.

Our teacher was the very same Mister Vic Narciso who introduced me to something akin to football during my elementary years. He was himself something of an aficionado of the game, if not very good at it. Although I was not a budding Michelangelo, either, I had a steady hand and didn’t think Mechanical Drawing was all that hard.

Each class day, we were given letters or patterns to trace on paper; and these were submitted in our compilation folders at the end of the class for grading. There was this one time when I had to be absent from classes for a while, probably because of illness. Thus, I missed several sessions of Mechanical Drawing. I must have been told to ask my classmates for the patterns that I missed and to do these on my own free time for submission along with the daily drawings that we had to do.

For reasons I cannot now recall, I failed to accomplish my backlog. I rather suspect it had something to do with my being my mother’s poultry boy and had to collect the eggs from the cages of our thousand or so layers and then clean up the water troughs each day after school.

Afraid that Mister Narciso would discover that I had not accomplished my backlog, I stopped submitting my folder at the end of each Mechanical Drawing class. I would dutifully do the day’s drawing assignment just like everyone else. I just didn’t submit it. Don’t anyone get me wrong. It wasn’t as though I was enjoying being stuck in the predicament I found myself in. I just didn’t know how to get out of it.

The funny thing was, I was getting grades! How in hell was that possible? But I did! Because Mechanical Drawing was a “practical art,” we had no quarterly examinations in it. But then, the exams were always followed by the release of report cards; and these I dreaded. But naturally, I felt guilty each time I looked at my card to see that the box opposite Mechanical Drawing was neither blank nor red.

We never did talk about this, but my guess was that Mister Narciso was just looking out for me. Apart from the fact that I was something of an up-and-coming varsity football player, I had always been friendly and respectful towards him since my elementary years. I knew it wasn’t fair to my classmates that I was getting grades that, in a sense, I did not really deserve; but neither did I ask to get them. In fact, there were times when I wished the farce could have been exposed so I could have simply started over.


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