03 February 2017

The Best Teachers of Senior Year at DLSL


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One other surprise when we returned back to school in June of 1974 was finding that our class had been assigned to the far end of the 100-wing, the one closest to the highway. The room was numbered 105 and our section was called Red-105. In those days, the seniors were red while the juniors were blue. The exchange of colors would be put in place until roughly a decade later when Brother Jaime Dalumpines was Principal.

Being assigned a room along the 100-wing was something of a minor treat. I don’t recall that the rooms along the wing were previously used as classrooms, or at least during my time at La Salle. They were either for administration offices or laboratories. The sudden increase in population due to the enrolment of coeds must have necessitated the conversion of the rooms at the far end of the building into classrooms. The assignment of the seniors to the wing meant that our class would be able to occupy a room in all of the school’s wings in the six years that we were in La Salle, thus completing the “around the world” as we used to laughingly call it.

We soon found out when the new school year opened that Brother Emiliano Hudtohan, or Brother Emil as everyone called him, had returned to resume his post as Principal. He left after my sophomore year, if memory serves me right, because he had to go abroad to study. I’m not really sure that he did. This was just how we heard it from the grapevine. In his absence, as I had previously written, Brother Bong Narciso stood as Acting Principal.

Our Homeroom Adviser in our senior year was Mr. Pablito Rabago. There was some irony in my ending up eventually teaching History when I wasn’t really all that fond of the Social Sciences when I was in basic education. Mr. Rabago, who would teach us World History, was the first to make me realize that the Social Sciences could, in fact, be likable. I still consider him to this day among the best Social Science teachers I ever had.

As good a teacher as he was, however, he also had this rather odd tendency to keep saying “isn’t it” even when one didn’t quite fit the sentence structure. The idiosyncrasy was not without its merits. Some days, we would amuse ourselves counting each “isn’t it” and happily announce the total after each class as soon as Mr. Rabago was out of earshot. One day, my classmate Nick Coronel announced all of 115 “isn’t its” for a 40-minute period. That’s an awful lot!

We also had this really funky young Brother of a teacher who left quite an impression even if he taught us for just one semester. His name was Isauro Obera or Brother Sau as he wanted to be called. He was smallish, wore his hair really long almost down to the small of his back and had this very contemporary, almost hippie, demeanor about him.

And we all adored him! He was simply brilliant. He was always overflowing with ideas, mostly not from textbooks but experiential. He was one of those teachers who just had the gift of being able to hold a class spellbound without even trying.

There was this one time when he brought the entire class to the Brothers’ House just so we could listen to his favorite classical music. Once inside, he bade everyone to make himself comfortable while he pulled out a 33-rpm (revolutions per minute) “long playing” vinyl album from the rack.

Once the album was playing on the turntable, he invited us to close our eyes and feel the music. At first, it was barely discernible but the same melody just kept playing over and over, getting louder and louder with each repetition. When the music was at its loudest, it came to an abrupt end with three deafening drum beats.

The music, he would explain to us, was Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero,” which caused something of a controversy in Europe in the nineteenth century. Once, he told us, it caused a riot inside a theater because the audience interpreted the repetitive tune to represent sexual intercourse and the abrupt drum beats to mean orgasm.

I later tried, during the Google era, to find any corroborating information about this supposed riot but couldn’t find any. For all I know, it was just some cockamamie story that Brother Sau invented to keep us spellbound. At the end of the day, it’s not really important. The fact that I still play Bolero to this very day and have a lot of classical music among my mp3s means that that session at the Brothers’ House four decades ago left quite a mark.

As I said, we only had Brother Sau as teacher for just a semester. However, just a few years later, I would have the good fortune to have him as my professor for a literature elective that I had to take for my program in college. He had already left the Christian Brothers, I soon learned from him; and was a lay teacher at De La Salle University-Manila. He wanted to be called Sau or Mr. Obera, but I was having none of it. To this very day, I still think of him as Brother Sau.

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