Back to School

Hail Assumption, Dear Assumption

I had the chance to visit my mentors back in my elementary days recently. I went back because they I received a call the day before asking me if I could be their speaker for a forum, and I said I’ll drop by to confirm, if ever. So the next day, I did. It was our school librarian who called me up. I went there at about lunch time and as a matter of courtesy, went to the faculty room where I saw some of my old mentors. Some of them remembered me at once while the others, well it’s been several odd years but they still remembered who I am.

So much has changed since the time I left these hallowed grounds, long gone are the patches of earth that used to be our playground, the tall trees that provided us shade from the afternoon sun, the plant boxes, and the old buildings. But most noticeably missing were some of the more familiar faces that used to welcome me everyday when I went to school.

Contrary to what my classmates awarded me when we met for our 10th year reunion, I wasn’t a teacher’s pet. And I was a far cry for being a model student too. I forgot my assignments at home, I wasn’t much of a team player, I wasn’t that bright, neat or tidy. I too had my shortcomings. But my teachers saw beyond all that, and remembered the goodness I never thought I had back then. It was like the prodigal son coming home.

Talking to them again gave me butterflies in my stomach; it seemed just like yesterday that these noble people were teaching me the alphabet, how to count, and all that stuff. What apparently they imparted, more than anything else, were lifelong values that are still part of me now.

I went to see the library, now air conditioned and all with an on online public access catalogue, new shelves, books and computers with internet connections to boot. Still present were the tables and chairs we used to sit on, and even an old scrapbook where I saw some familiar faces, albeit they were so much younger then. It was now definitely bigger with more books, but now there were so few students reading them. The students seem to have a very different notion of what the words research, browse, bookmark mean. And I remember what a good friend once asked me: “Is this the price we have pay for progress?”

It saddens me to know that some of our beloved mentors have already passed away, while those who remained are just counting a few more years before they themselves retire. I remembered leaving them so vibrant, so full of energy and zeal for teaching. Perhaps their spirits still posses these traits, but undeniably the sands of time have most definitely caught up with them. I shared moments of laughter as we recalled memories of that part of my life, but deep inside I felt a pang of sadness and guilt as well and deep down inside I cried just a little for the people who in one way or another made me the kind of person that I am today. My only consolation was what a former adviser said to me before I bid her goodbye, “Seeing you here right now, after all these years makes it all worth it”

To borrow a quote from one of my favorite authors I pause to reflect another lesson I learned the day I went back to school: “Nalaman ko na hindi pala exam na may passing rate ang buhay. Hindi ito multiple choice, identification, true or false, enumeration, o fill in the blanks na sinasagutan, kundi isang essay na isinusulat araw-araw. Huhusgahan ito hindi base sa kung tama o mali ang sagot, kundi base sa kung may kabuluhan ang mga naisulat o wala. Allowed ang erasures.” (“I learned that life is not an exam with a passing rate. It is not multiple choice, true or false, enumeration or fill in the blanks that you answer, but an essay that you write every day. It will be judged based not if the answers are right or wrong but if what you wrote had meaning or not. Erasures are allowed.”)


[NB: This article was previously published in one of the many previous incarnations of this blog sometime in 2006. Reposted with some minor changes for this blog entry]

~ by allen mallari on December 10, 2012.

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