07 April 2017

Finally Starting to Enjoy College Life


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Junior year was probably the first time that I really started to enjoy life as a college student, and largely because I had started taking up my major subjects. There were just one or two subjects each semester of the sort that I didn’t like. While I was still “international,” I spent the better part of each day in the company of other students also majoring in East Asian Studies. It was almost like a freshman class in that we saw each other frequently and, thus, became quite a compact group of students. Of course, we were older; but this didn’t stop us from enjoying ourselves.

Some of us even hung out with each other outside of class hours. A favorite pastime while waiting for the next class was just to sit on any of the benches that lined the north end of the La Salle Building just finding something to laugh about among the people coming and going. It was mean and immature; but loads of fun.

Occasionally, something out of the ordinary would happen. For instance, there was this one afternoon when I was with a couple of classmates and we saw this poor gentleman approaching. He carried a package in his hand and appeared to ask a couple of students he encountered along the corridor about something. Each time, the student shook his head and the gentlemen moved on. Finally approaching our bench, he called out, “Guys! Can you help me find the office of Mr. William Hall?”

My classmates and I momentarily looked at each other, our eyes instantly gleaming with the humor of the moment. “Why do you wish to go there?” one of my classmates asked tentatively, unsure if the feller was trying to be funny. “I need to deliver this package to him,” he replied. He showed us the package and on it was written “William Hall.” I took pity on him and gave him directions, “Go straight and then turn right.” As soon as he was out of earshot, we all burst out laughing. William Hall was the name of a building.

We also sometimes loved to play this silly game we invented that we never really named but which could be called “spot-the-freshmen.” Not that this was ever a challenge because it was so easy to spot them. Especially at the start of the school year, they were always the ones looking up at the door signs; wore new clothes and shoes; and moved from building to building in large groups. Upperclassmen, no longer part of block sections, rather tended to move in smaller groups.

As the weeks passed in my junior year, I started to enjoy a real sense of belonging with the East Asian Studies group, something I did not really feel with my freshman block section. We were a diverse group of students from all over the country.

My closest buddy from this majors group was one Jun Sibug who, unlike me, was a regular junior. If I was not hanging out with my teammates in the football varsity team, I was likely hanging out with him. He was probably present in all the stories I told earlier. Sometimes, we hung out with this other feller whose name continues to elude me, but I knew him before because he was my classmate in my freshman block section.

Among the pretty girls in our group was one Sylvia Syjuco, an Assumption College graduate whom we learned was either the daughter or granddaughter of the previous owner of this prestigious soft drink company. Then, there was Mela Gomez, who was not only sweet and pretty but was also so easy to get along with. I belatedly discovered that she was the brother of one of the farm team members of the football varsity. Frankly, I used to tease my teammate, I never would have guessed based on their looks alone.

There was also this tall girl whose name I cannot recall, but she was always dressed as though she was attending some formal event. This was totally the opposite of the university’s dress down culture. We heard that she was a commercial model, but while some of my male classmates thought she was strikingly beautiful, I thought her jaw was too angular, almost like that of a man. What I will never forget about this classmate of mine was that you could always tell she was coming because the strong scent of the perfume she was wearing for the day preceded her. I was never really fond of strong scents, so there.

As a rule of thumb, the prettier girls who came from the more exclusive schools rather tended to be the easier ones to get along with. It so happened that we had this classmate from somewhere south who, to put things diplomatically, was to be fair not really ugly but also wasn’t Farrah Fawcett-Majors. It was, I now understand, probably a defense mechanism. But she was the sort who would pass male classmates along the corridors and not even glance let alone nod her head in acknowledgment. For her demeanor, somebody gave her the nickname “Espie” which really stood for “snob na pangit” (ugly snob). Before long, everyone in my circle of friends called her that way behind her back.

Of our female classmates, the one who frequently ended up with Jun and I in group assignments was one Enid Romero, who was from Pampanga. There were quite a few students from Pampanga in the university, and Enid was well connected with them. Whenever she encountered fellow Kapampangans along the corridors, she would talk to them in their own language. Each time, the words “potam benge” would keep coming out.

Boy, I would think to myself; Enid sure loved to cuss. One time before class, I teased her, “Enid why do you keep cussing potang-benge whenever I see you with other Kapampangans?” She immediately laughed at me and replied, “You fool! The word means tonight!”

By this time, DLSU students, whether male or female, were no longer required to wear a uniform. Enid, however, was one of a handful of coeds on campus who continued to wear the apple green and flesh uniform. This uniform, incidentally, was the pattern for the one that would be worn by coeds of La Salle in Lipa from the seventies to the new millennium.

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