A New Days Start
At the start of the barrio school day, the sunlight hangs suspended like a swarm of bees conducting a caucus. Out in the distance, the newly planted yellow green rice seedlings play tumble with the breeze. Like the rest of the pupils in school, I pass Impong Menang sitting on her papag(1) bench by the gate. Then I saunter past the Rizal bust monument, around the bamboo pole flapping a faded red, white and blue banner and go directly to the back of the school building. Yaying saddles up to me, eyes affixed on the raised flat beds.
Mr. Adeva, will inspect the garden plots today, I acknowledged her presence.
Notes every sign of growth on our assigned plots, she said.
What grade didya get? I asked.
The usual passing grade75%.
Yaying, I sermonize. Youre a tuta(2). Worked as hard as knots and you got a higher grade. My tone of voice showed invidious comparison.
Mondays are especially stressful for Mr. Adeva, she rationalizes.
Theres always a mad rush with only a handful of watering cans.
"I got the ligadera(3) first," announces Berto. The oldest pupil in my cohort. He was retained in first grade two years in a row. Hes thinking of dropping out the following semester should he get another bad report card.
Nabagsak(4). The explanation conjures being dumped down in a pit. One doesnt get promoted to the next grade without learning to read Book One of Pepe and Pilar. Being a repeater hes overaged and also an early maturer. Wins all foot races. He was seven when during milking time his carabao kicked him in the face dislocating his jaw. The local arbolaryo(5) performed a banged-up job and the bump became a fixed feature on his face.
Hoy(6), Bertong Bukol(7), its not fair that the titser(8) allows you to eat santol(9) in class, the third graders--his original cohort teased. He appears to have a santol seed forever embedded in his cheek. Kids are cruel. His nickname stuck.
First order of business was tending and watering plants. When the bell announces the end of the period, I run to the water pump, wash my mud-caked feet and dirt-soiled hands. Then joining the girls line I find my place according to height, between Solita and Yaying. We march quietly up the front porch and enter the classroom. I leave my bakya outside the door neatly aligned. The other wooden clogs are imitating the mayas perched neatly in rows atop the electrical lines by the street posts. I enter the room with my freshly scrubbed bare feet shuffling the Philippine hardwood mahogany floorboards to a satiny sheen. The boys line follows. We stand by our desks, face Miss Acedillo, bow and greet her in unison:
Goood Morr-ning, Miss Acid-dill-yo, and then break out into a song:
Goood morrning to you,
Goood morrning to you,
Were all in our places,
With sun shiny faces.
Oh, dis is the way,
To start a new day.
1. Low bamboo
3. Watering can.
5. Herb doctor.
Copyright © 2004 Carayan Press