02 February 2017

When the Speech Teacher Hurled His Book Across the Room


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One of the things that I used to think odd when I was already a teacher at De La Salle Lipa was that there was no subject called Speech. I don’t exactly recall how many years we had this subject, but I am sure we had it for at least two years, and certainly in my junior year.

We had a great teacher in Mrs. Rosemarie Robles, the former Miss Dimaandal, with her almost North American accented English. From her, we learned the phonetic nuances of the Queen’s language and how to properly enunciate English sounds.

The most common exercise we used to have was the “quickie talk,” when we were randomly called to the front of the classroom to talk about anything under the sun. Through this so-called quickie talk, Mrs. Robles was able to ascertain how fluent we were in the English language and, more importantly since the subject was after all Speech, how correct we were in our pronunciations.

One time, instead of the usual quickie talk, she asked us to write original short poems and then afterwards called us individually to the front to read out loud our own poems. My classmates Amando “Ding” Mirasol, one of the jokers in the class, started to read out his, “Who draws the cloud and plays so loud, baby it’s the guitar man…”

You all have to understand, although Mrs. Robles didn’t really have a reputation for being a “terror,” she still wasn’t the sort of teacher under whom the class could become a circus. That was why, as Ding recited his so-called poem, while everyone’s eyes gleamed with unmistakable humor, we could all only but laugh in a restrained manner. The teacher was not a dunce and she could tell that Ding’s poem wasn’t original at all. In fact, he was reading out the lyrics of Bread’s “The Guitar Man,” a certifiable hit during the time.

This year, Mrs. Robles was also with child and later went on maternity leave. While she was away, her place as our Speech teacher was taken over by a gentleman by the name of Mister Evangelista, whose first name for the life of me I cannot now recall. He was a dark-skinned gaunt man whose eyes were deep-set and surrounded by even darker skin, something which gave him the look of, well, a cadaver. Before long, somebody in the class had given him a very unflattering name – Mister Bangkaylista. That was totally mean; but we were in high school so it was also totally normal.

Mrs. Robles was always going to be a hard act to follow, but the problem was that nobody in the class could figure out why Mister Evangelista was ever assigned to teach a subject such as Speech. His English was not bad by any means. But his diction, which was what Speech was all about, was horrifying.

Under Mrs. Robles, we used to have this drill during which we learned to properly differentiate similar sounds like the long “e” and the short “i.” “Class,” she would bid us, “repeat after me. Beat, two-two.” Nobody ever discovered what the two-two meant but we dutifully chanted after her, anyway.

The first time we did the same drill under Mister Evangelista, the book he was holding went flying across the room. “Class,” he began, “re-peht after me… Beht… toh-toh…” He even closed his eyes momentarily as he pronounced the words, as though he was having an orgasm. Immediately, insane laughter reverberated around the classroom. Except that, we soon discovered, Mister Evangelista had a terrible temper and would not be bullied by a class of adolescents. The laughter died down as soon as the book went flying from out of his hand to the back of the room.

We continued to laugh at him inside our heads whenever we did the Speech drills because his pronunciation was atrocious, but after that book-throwing incident, nobody dared laugh out loud. We just wished that Mrs. Robles’ husband’s hormones weren’t so active and that she would come back soon.

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