Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Batis ng Diwa

For some strange reason, I am suddenly pining for my alma mater, the Manila Science High School.

Lord knows why I'm feeling this way. I remember almost barfing at the mere mention of my high school just exactly after graduation. But now...

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It was already difficult as it was to be a teenager at during those days. I then added the perennial nail to my personal crucifix of teenage woes by deciding on getting myself enrolled in MaSci -- as we fondly call our high school.


Plus, the years between 1983 and 1987 were very turbulent times for the country -- and I was a direct witness to history unfolding while languishing in MaSci.

Pimples, rallies, studies, CAT, Geometry, the Tagisan ng Talino, terror teachers, crushes, The Nucleus, singing contests, violent crowd dispersals, Physics, EDSA, science projects, Martial Law, Ninoy Aquino's death...Mash all of these together into a glutinous pinkish goop and that will technically summarize my life in MaSci.

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Back when I was still a graduating student at Dr. Albert Elementary School (Yes, I'm a proud product of public schools!), I took the entrance exams for Philippine Science High School and MaSci. I managed to pass in both schools, but instead of getting into PhilSci , I opted for MaSci. These were my reasons for opting to study in MaSci:
1. I couldn't see myself taking a science-related course in college, and this is a major requirement among PhilSci grads.
2. MaSci was closer to my place in Sampaloc, Manila than PhilSci.
3. MaSci was my best ticket for getting into the two top universities in the Philippines -- UP and Ateneo.
4. Hell, not everyone could enter MaSci, and I wanted to be part of the "elite" crowd who was given the privilege to study there!

My mom had other plans, though. She suggested that I study in Ramon Magsaysay High School. She knew that between MaSci and Monsay, I'll get to enjoy my teenage life more in Monsay. Plus, she was sure that I would excel there, considering that the said school gives equal weight to both academic and extracurricular activities -- and I was very active in extracurricular activities. Life would be more relaxed in Monsay, she added, and she was sure that I was going to be among the more popular students there. Even the principal of Monsay at that time who was my mom's acquaintance was waiting for me to enrol there.

But I persisted with enrolling in MaSci.

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During my freshman year in MaSci, I was placed in the section, Archimedes. That was probably the only time I was placed in the first section in my entire high school life. From there I was placed in the middle sections not only because I was one of those unfortunate souls who were stinking bigtime in math subjects but also because being in the middle sections meant that I didn't have to come too early to school due to the 9 am sked.


Let me recall the names of all my sections in MaSci:
* I-Archimedes
* II-Millikan (my best year and section ever!)
* III-Hertz
* IV-Newton (stinks to the highest degree)

Archi (as we nicknamed our freshman section) was okay, but that's where I was exposed to the horrors of Algebra. For the life of me, I have yet to understand why it is so important to explain why x=y. And when the polynomials started coming in, I ended up staring into blank space.

Millikan was a lot better for me because this was the time when I found my set of friends who was to stick with me until we graduated from high school. Plus, our adviser was also our English teacher who appreciated me, primarily because I did very well in her subject. I also developed a love for Social Studies, thanks to my Social Studies teacher who even tried to train me for the Social Studies segment of the District Quiz Bee.

The friends I had in Millikan were still my classmates when I got to Hertz. We also conjured a cheesy name for our group -- Rosheilene Jeberdine. It's actually a combination of all our first names: ROchelle, SHEIla, MyLENE, JEnnifer, BERnadette, and GeralDINE.This was the time when we really started going on mischievous adventures like going "over da bakod," giving our security guard the slip (We did those things for a noble cause: to buy materials for our Science project. Honest!), and spending our Friday afternoons off watching movies at the apartment unit we used to live in Manila. Back then, home movies were being shown on betamax format. (Kinda gives you an idea how ancient those times were, huh?)

I dunno: somehow I have very little memory of my Newton days, except that it was my graduating year. Oh yeah: my Newton days were spent reviewing for this and that exam from the NCEE to the UPCAT. We even got in hot water for garnering the highest batch average in Manila for those who attained 99+ in their NCEE results for the nth time. This, despite efforts of the Division of City Schools of Manila and the Department of Education to make things difficult for us. We were made to take the NCEE at nearby St. Scholastica's College instead of at our homegrounds, our proctors made us stop answering our questionnaires even before the allotted time was up, and we weren't even allowed to leave our rooms during recess.

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Being in MaSci was quite a humbling experience for me, considering that all through my elementary life, I was always in the first section. It was also humbling that after excelling academically in the elementary years, I then drowned in the sea of mediocrity in MaSci. After all, each one of us there was a first-rate student from his/her respective elementary school, so what could be considered above-average in other schools was just average in MaSci.

But in fairness, I was not lagging in the brains department. I may have stunk in math (except for Statistics. I got a whopping 98 there!), but I was the consistent topnotcher in all our English periodic exams from first year to fourth year. Unfortunately, MaSci didn't care much for English topnotchers, precisely because the said school gave more credence to those who excelled in Math and Science, Thus, I was a mere second-liner compared to my counterparts. So sad...

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Feeding on my inclination toward English, I decided to take Journalism and Technical Writing classes as electives. And it was because of my joining our school papers, The Embryo and The Nucleus, that I got the only medal I received in my whole pathetic high school life. But in fairness, it was a gold medal in Feature Writing, and for being the highest individual pointer in that category. (gloat, gloat...)

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Yes, probably pathetic would be a term I could use to describe my life in MaSci. While I was an athletic and tall girl in elementary, I was a fashion-challenged average-faced girl in high school who really stank in Math. I was creative, though, but that didn't count for much in MaSci.

During my time there, our school was headed by a principal who apparently believed that the only way to go was through Science, Technology, and Math. Anything other than that was to be considered a passing fancy. Thus, she took away our Speechfests and the cheering competitions then left us with only the December Carolfest and Foundation Day floor calisthenics to look forward to. We didn't have any athletic team, and the theater group was just a ragtag group of kids who just wanted to have fun after school hours.

I decided to join the theater group, and I did manage to take part in several school plays and skits. One "famous" scene I had there was a scene where I played a fish vendor. I was using all the skills of the trade (selling my fish cheap, almost giving them away, having a buy-one-take-two promo, etc.) to wrangle customers from a rival fish vendor who was also employing equally-uncanny marketing skills to sell her own fish. In true Filipino slapstick fashion, we ended up throwing fish at each other, and everyone joined in the bedlam.

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My pathos extended to my lovelife. MaSci did have its share of gorgeous boys and girls, but all I could do was to stare at my crushes there. I had a crush on a guy who turned out to be gay, then on another guy who was tauted as an Aga Muhlach lookalike. There was this guy from our neighboring school -- Araullo High School -- who became my biggest high school crush. This was because I would encounter him often during inter-school singing contests. But alas, just like all my other high school crushes, this one also came crashing down in flames.

Probably this would be the biggest manifestation of my pathetic love (and social) life in MaSci. I attended our high school prom during my junior year, but because I was so BORED (to the nth power) by it, I decided not to attend the prom in my senior year. Not that I was a wallflower: I did get to dance with some male friends and my groupies. I mean, how can one truly enjoy a prom that started at 7 pm then ended at 9 pm? Plus our get-ups were sooo lame -- I think I burned my prom pictures or left them with the neighborhood stray dog to chew on.

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Let me take a moment to remember several memorable teachers we had from MaSci:

*Miss Rodriguez. Apart from sharing a family name, there was nothing else common between me and this General Science teacher. She was the one who literally yanked us from our respective pedestals during our freshman year by saying, "If you were honor students in your elementary days, here, you're just average lowly students."

*Mrs. Galicia. Ma'am Galicia was the English teacher and class adviser I was referring to earlier in this entry. After a so-so freshman year, Ma'am Galicia renewed my fervor for learning. She was quite formidable, but was in fact, very loving to us Millikan people. Parang nanay.

*Miss Mancera. Sexy, very chic, but utterly scary. She was our Geometry teacher, and we'd almost pee from sheer terror whenever we were in her class. It was bad enough that we were having difficulty with theorems, planes, and angles -- she only made things worse with her stoic expression and husky Visayan accent. Once she confiscated my Science textbook because she thought I was opening it during her class. I had my mom come over to get that book from her, and I was surprised that after her meeting with Miss Mancera, they came out of the faculty room like BFFs. As it turned out, Miss Mancera was also a Waray, but from Samar. Nagkasundo ang dalawang matitigas ang dila.

*Mrs. Ongjoco. She was our Chemistry teacher during our Hertz days, and our section initially felt that she hated us. During every session, we were served with a tirade of insults about being slow learners, irresponsible babies, etc. However, as the school year went on, we realized that she was just challenging us to do our best. In fact, I did quite well in balancing chemical equations despite my not being able to memorize the whole table of periodic elements. That was because she was such a good mentor.

*Mrs. Yumang. She was our boys' Practical Arts teacher, and she turned into a legend of sorts due to the boys' stories about her selling materials for projects and getting a small profit from them. I dunno if this was true, only that she was reported to be of the very enterprising kind. Sometimes, the boys would break out into song and sing "We're only Yumang (human)...of flesh and blood, I'm made..."

*Mr. Bobby Obsequio. He knew I was hopeless in Advanced Algebra but somehow I was redeemed because he loved my teeth and my singing voice. He was openly gay, but of the dignified kind. Nonetheless, the Hertz boys dedicated a classic 80s tune to him, and it went a little something like this: "I want some-Bobby to share, share the rest of my life...share my innermost thoughts...know my intimate details..."

*Mr. Castillo. Cool, composed, dashing (through the snow)...that was our Sir Castillo. He was our Calculus teacher who never lost his cool whenever he gave quizzes or exams, and I submitted blank sheets of paper with only my name on them. With a lopsided grin, he'd
just call me to the faculty room after a disastrous exam and tell me to sing before the faculty members present there. And that was my secret to passing Calculus.

*And last but not the least, Miss Puyawan. She may not have stayed with us for too long (Just one week, in fact), but I crown her as my batch's most memorable teacher. She was a stand-in for our Social Studies teacher who went on leave for health reasons. How could she not become memorable when it was only she who could deliver these lines with utter seriousness?

"Okay class, my name is Miss Fuyawan..." (Stated while writing her name as "Puyawan" on the blackboard. She ends her name with a period.)

"I want someone to do a refort on the Panic Wars, and the pounding of the Roman empi-res." (We frantically look for such topics in our book until we come upon the Punic Wars and the founding of the Roman empire.)

"Can I assign a volunteer?" (The class's snickering gets a little louder.)

"After your report, flease write it on cocon bam....(???? Oh, coupon bond...)

"Why you lapping? (Laughing) If you lapping (laughing), you done that in the corridor!"

She got the same reaction from all the other classes she attempted to handle. I dunno what happened to her after that. Some said that she just couldn't take the lapping anymore...

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Like I said earlier, I was privy to major upheavals in our country while in MaSci. Ninoy Aquino was assassinated during my freshman year. It was a Sunday when it happened. The next day, one could feel a certain heaviness in the atmosphere. That dark mood prevailed the whole day, and it was because of the uncertainty of events that classes were dismissed early. But then, by the time we were dismissed, the roads were virtually empty and we had to walk home.

Walking home from school seemed to be the usual order of the day, especially when there were big rallies going on in Liwasang Bonifacio or Plaza Miranda. Both police and rallyists were highly-strung in those days, with rallies ending in violence and death. And hapless civilians like us usually ended up in the crossfire.

So far, the most violent dispersal I experienced was the one where a tear gas canister exploded beside the jeep I was riding in. Almost blind from tears, all of us passengers had to run out of the jeep. Unfortunately, the police started rounding up people, and I became a target because of my red, puffy eyes. Thus, I ran from City Hall to the Quezon Bridge in the direction of Quiapo. Thinking that I was safe there, I got into a jeep bound for Dapitan where I lived. Unfortunately, the rallyists from Liwasang Bonifacio transferred to Plaza Miranda (in Quiapo) and were raging-bull mad at the dispersals. They ran toward the bridge and started shaking the jeep in front of us. I didn't stick around to see what they intended to do with the jeep, I just ran like hell toward the Muslim colony in Quiapo. It was there where I bumped into my older cousin, and he accompanied me to Morayta where I safely got a ride home. I was absent the next day because my eyes were still stinging from the tear gas.

By the time I got to my junior year, the very first EDSA Revolution happened. But since I was still quite apathetic at that time, I was just happy that we didn't have classes for almost the entire month of February.

I also remember that the LRT was first launched during my freshman year in MaSci. And since our school was just along Taft Avenue, it wasn't difficult to get to the main station just behind City Hall. We were among the very first people to ride for free during the maiden voyage of the LRT trains. After that, we eventually got used to the distracting whir of the LRT train engines during our classes.

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To end this blast from my high school past, I'd like to share the Manila Science High School anthem with all of you. We used to just mouth these lyrics like some church hymn during our flag ceremonies, but it makes more sense now than ever before. We are/were not only Manila Science High School students: we're proud denizens of the Filipino race.

I attempted a rough Dolphy-Panchito translation of the MaSci anthem for those non-Tagalog readers. Here goes:

Batis ng diwa, ginto't dalisay

(Stream of fervor[?], golden and pure)
Kanlungan ng Karunungan
(Threshold of intelligence)
Sa agham ay tampok na tunay
(Truly adept in the Sciences)
Pangalan niya'y mutya at mahal
(Her name is beautiful and loved)
Sikapin natin at pagyamanin
(Let us strive and develop)
Aral niya'y ating sundin
(The knowledge she imparts, we should follow)
Sa bawat sulok ng bayan natin
(In every corner of our land)
Kanyang bandila ay dalhin
(We bring with us her flag)

4 comments:

nalyn_dj said...

I happen to be a MaScian, too. And my third year section was HERTZ as well. This is an amazing blogpost. I miss high school. :)

filipinagoddess said...

We have a facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/165295536880296/

atelitz said...

I WAS BATCH '69 AND A IV NEWTON WHEN I GRADUATED, WE HAD SIMILR EXPERIENCES, AND SAME SENTIMENTS. MY HIGH SCHOOL YEARS WERE THE HAPPIEST YEARS OF MY LIFE. THERE IS JUST ONE PROBLEM. MY BATCH CANNOT RECALL "BATIS NG DIWA" AS A HYMN. DO YOU KNOW THE HISTORY OF THIS SONG, WRITER, YEAR COMPOSED ETC.

Lira Kale Pajarillo said...

You really do good in writing, maam! By the way, I am a present student in MaSci.. a Grade 10 to be exact. (because of k-12. Grade 10 is like 4th year HS) and I hope I could survive the following two years! MaScians face a different set of struggles today. The issue of 'struggles' is not taken seriously... just like before, maam... when people thought Mascians can do everything on fire... I hope to see all Mascian alumni every foundation day!