Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Everyone is scrambling around me as I sit under the antediluvian tree across the Guidance Councilor’s Office. I don’t mean this in a poetic way, but there really is a tree and I truly am lazing and marveling at the fact that everyone is so busy. Forecasting a writing career for myself within the next ten years, I open my Troll journal and I go through my last entry. In a split second, it dawned on me that among the seniors, I’m the only one who has not mapped part of my future called college.
My father, who spent years in UPLB, believed that the universe had written it down for me to gravitate towards UP, but my mother made a counter threat to send me to a school run by nuns instead. The conversation with her did not last for five minutes and everyone kept mum on the discussion of college after that.

On one of those afternoons when I was not in the company of other hormonally-charged classmates, the counselor called for me at the office. I was reminded that I had not taken any entrance exam and that it was the last day of application for UP. I found out soon enough that ‘last day’ actually meant ‘the last two hours’. It was the busiest two hours of my life in high school: filling out the lengthy application form, begging the photographer to give me my photo in less than 30-minutes spurning the “one hour” photography sign, sprinting to the other school to run after the staff of UP. I found them outside the building lugging boxes of application forms, waiting for their bus heading back to Iloilo City. They stopped accepting application forms 30 minutes before I arrived, so I was told. The spiritless probinsyana in me was ready to give up a life under the oblation’s arms when the woman took my papers and tucked them in her arm.

In Zamboanga City, a young man carefully folded his application for UP and placed it in an envelope. In his pocket was his last P150 which he religiously saved for the entrance exam. On the date of the exam, he found out that his name was not on the list. To his disappointment, he went up to the person in-charge and contended that his application was accepted. Well, who would argue with a 16-year old whose cataclysmic truth was his mother’s disappointment if he came home empty-handed?

In June that year, my father drove me to my campus, while the young man asked his way around to arrive two hours later to the vast UP Miag-ao campus that was gracefully laid against the temperamental South China Sea. It was a priceless treat to have my face against the wind when I rolled down the car window while passing through the long Guimbal bridge. The young man, though seas away from home, was welcomed by the same solacing wind.

That was the beginning of nineteen-ninety three.

The next seven years I spent in UP (classic, isn’t it?) were chronicled around rallies against dorm fee increases, Charter Change and other epochal concerns that awakened the spirits of young activists; moments between wakefulness and slumber in insobriety; beautiful and dramatized camaraderie; triumphs over traditional learning by simply understanding that the true source of knowledge is beyond the walls of a classroom; and over a hundred episodes of events that no one would dare forget.

All these happened in the stealthy companion of one painfully shy young man. The way I would climb up the fire exit with such grace after curfew was a bewitchery for him while he indulged himself with mugs of coffee, waiting for my expected appearance around the dark corner. He memorized my penmanship and would pick up my pen in class whenever I dropped it. He would mysteriously show up with an umbrella when the rain would start to fall on me. He was so laidback and mysterious—the antithesis of me. Later on, I learned that his name was Alexander. That was everything I knew about him.

On one of the visits his mom made to Miag-ao, he told her, “That’s the girl I’m going to marry,” when I passed by them at the Student Union Building. There was nothing more to the occasional exchange of nods between us that time. Who would ever guess how some stories end?

Years later, I received a message from the seasoned journalist Noralyn Mustafa, saying “Thank God, you finally found each other! Enough of that running around and do what you have to do! My son must have done something really good to deserve you.” So after a short engagement, an initial cosmic union and a rush to start doing the laundry together, I became the coffee addict’s yin, and he, the yang of the fire exit crawler.

A feted audience to this story is my six-year old son, Cole, who, upon hearing this for the first time, said “Really?! You were classmates? So you were together in school? That is so weird!”

As part of our vow to relive the UP experience with Cole, we prayed for a temporary home inside the UP Diliman campus and the universe heard us. We enjoyed a four-month adventure in an antediluvian house where a huge window framed a verdant slope across our tiny home. There was only a quiet road that separated us from all that nature had magnificently worked on.

On the opening night of the Centennial Celebration, world-renowned composer Ryan Cayabyab led the huge crowd in singing “UP Naming Mahal,” the hymn we always took pride in singing while standing up for our principles back in our heydays in the state university. Without a cue from us, Cole stood up and raised his fist while intently listening to the hymn. We knew right there and then that we were home. Home again.

You Might Also Like


Tea Mates

Like us on Facebook