Category Archives: School

Week 25: Go on a Field Trip

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This is cheating a little bit because I didn’t actually plan on doing this. But The Tactless Child’s class was going on a field trip and each kid needed a chaperone. So I went. And since it’s something new (and my tita reminded me yesterday that a post was overdue, hi Tita C), I thought this could count as my week 25 thing.

We had to be at the Tactless Child’s school by 7:30 a.m. This was the big hurdle of the day – getting up early. I’d had just two hours of sleep the night before because I had to finish a cover story for a magazine; and waking up early is not The Tactless Child’s favorite thing to do. It took a couple of gentle nudges, a few threats, and a big tug at her feet before she crawled out of bed. It was a good thing we lived just 15 minutes from her school.

We were going to Manila Zoo, Pizza Hut, and Seri Fantasy World at the Manila Ocean Park. It was The Tactless Child’s first time on a bus and, apparently, it was a new experience for many of her classmates as well. Getting seated aboard the bus, they screamed each other’s names like long-lost friends, as if they weren’t together just five seconds before boarding. The Tactless Child got the window seat, as did every other kid on the bus. “Wow, look at that jeep! Wow, a bike! Wow, a car!” You’d have thought these kids were kept in cages at home.

I’d hoped for a short nap on the bus ride to the zoo but as soon as the bus rolled, a girl with chipped red nails and carrying a microphone stepped up to the aisle and introduced herself. She was going to be our guide, she said. (I didn’t realize we needed guiding.) She began her spiel by saying, “Hello.” Then after a few seconds, “Hi.” And then, “Hello.” It was going to be a loooong ride. 

Anyway, thankfully, we arrived at the zoo before our guide finished talking about rules on the bus. We got off and immediately, it was as if a flock of little chattery birds surrounded us. It was actually The Tactless Child and her classmates, all talking and squealing at once. For the rest of the field trip, this would be our background song.

Right by the entrance was the elephant – all alone. It looked really sad (or as sad as elephants can look) and bored. It was hanging around outside its enclosure but when we walked up to it, it showed us its rear end then went back inside. We must have been too noisy. I don’t know how exactly to take care of elephants, but I’m pretty sure it was not how Manila Zoo was doing it – all alone (don’t elephants travel in a group?), surrounded by cement walls and floors, with no trees to tear down with their trunks. In fact, I generally don’t agree with zoos, keeping animals away from their natural habitat, stripping them of their dignity. But I knew I couldn’t think like that if I was going to enjoy the trip with The Tactless Child, so I sacked my hippie ideals temporarily and walked on.

Next up were the statue-like alligators. “They’re dead! They’re dead!” the kids screamed. Until we saw one devouring a baby goat. We could see all four feet and the head still sticking out of the alligator’s mouth. With one snap of the alligator’s powerful jaws, we heard the crack of bone and the goat was gone. Mother Nature at work.

There were zebras, a white horse, and three sheep who stood side by side, motionless, until we left. Their enclosure was sprawling, which was good. It was filled with grass, trees, a bahay kubo (for the sheep?) and a stable. The birds – a hornbill, a couple of owls, some other birds whose names I don’t remember –  were in a cluster of dirty cages. The floors were wet, and the birds had a single perch to rest on.

The monkeys looked like they were the happiest animals in the zoo. They stayed in the pen where the lions used to be.(The lions were gone. Died, said one of the groundsmen when I asked, obviously before he could think of a more press-friendly way to say it. The giraffes were gone, too.) And despite the sign saying, “Do Not Feed the Animals”, there were bananas, crackers, chips, and all sorts of food obviously tossed in by non-reading visitors. Two monkeys started to mate as soon as we walked up to them. “Ano ginagawa nila, Mommy?” (“What are they doing?”) one of the girls asked. “Ah, wala. Naglalaro lang,” the mom stammered. (“Nothing. They’re just playing.”) Heehee, never heard it described that way before.

The big attraction for kids at the zoo was the Kinder Zoo, where the animals were supposed to roam freely and anyone could touch them. One petrified turtle got dropped on its shell, a baby alligator’s tail got stepped on, and they all ignored the animal I was most fascinated with: a black pig who was so fat that its belly was one centimeter from the ground when the pig was standing up.

As if to make up for the dismal state of the animals (and such a few animals there were), there was a zipline and wall-climbing area by the exit. Nice save.

At Pizza Hut, the girls made their own pizzas, which the parents gobbled up (because they weren’t cheese pizzas) in the bus. By the time we made it to Manila Ocean Park, the parents were almost done in, walking on pure will power. But the girls were still going strong. We were whisked through a room full of mirrors (which was pretty cool), a room full of trick art (which was even more cool. You just need a camera to see the effect), an indoor playground (which gave the parents some time to sink to the floor and rest their weary old legs), and a 3D theater (where we watched a Korean-produced short film about the flight of birds. Pretty cool, too).

It was a good field trip. Well-planned. And the girls had a fantastic time. I had fun, too. But my legs are happy it happens just once a year.

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Ika-21 linggo: Magsalita, mag-isip, magsulat sa Pilipino

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Noong nakaraang buwan, ipinagdiwang ang Buwan ng Wika sa paaralan ng Batang Taklesa. (Mula ngayon, ang itatawag ko na sa The Hooligan ay The Tactless Child; Una, dahil hindi ko alam ang katumbas sa Tagalog ng salitang Hooligan, pangalawa, dahil wala na namang pagka-hooligan ang asal ng Batang Taklesa. Ngayon ay sumusunod na siya sa kanyang mga magulang ngunit naging matanong naman siya tungkol sa mga bagay na maselan. Tulad ng: “Mommy, bakit naaamoy ko ang hininga mo?” [sa Ingles] sa akin kapag bagong gising ako at hindi pa nakakapag-sipilyo, at, “Bakit po mahahaba ang kuko niyo sa paa?” [sa Ingles] sa kanyang lolo.)

Mabalik tayo sa Buwan ng Wika. Taun-taon, sa buwan ng Agosto, ang lahat ng paaralan sa Pilipinas ay nagiging isa sa pagdiriwang ng wikang Pilipino. Sa lahat ng Presidential Decree na ipinautos ng Malacanang, ito, sa tingin ko, ang isa sa pinakamagaling. Ang pagsalita ng Pilipino ay tumutulong sa pagtanaw natin sa ating pinanggalingan, sa ating pagkatao bilang mga Pilipino. Kailangang kailangan ito lalo na sa ngayong panahon, kung kailan maraming bata – bilang na rito Ang Batang Taklesa at Ang Mandudura (hindi na siya T-Rex mula ngayon; The One Who Spits na siya) – ang mas sanay magsalita ng Ingles kaysa Tagalog. Tingnan mo na lang ang kabataan kapag pinapakanta ng Lupang Hinirang – kung anu-ano ang sinasabi, walang tumutugma sa kanta.

Kaya’t noong isang araw, nagpasya akong kalimutan ang wikang Ingles nang isang araw at magsalita, mag-isip, at magsulat sa Tagalog lamang. Mahirap. Napakahirap. Ikinahihiya ko ito dahil ako rin pala (kasama na rin Ang Asawa), mas sanay nang mag-Ingles kaysa mag-Tagalog.

Noong araw na iyon na nag-sariling Araw ng Wika kami, inakala ng Batang Taklesa at ng Mandudura na naglalaro kami ng Pictionary. Kung may sasabihin kasi ako sa kanila at hindi nila maintindihan ang aking sinasabi, idinadaan ko na lang sa kilos. Ngunit hindi ko kayang sabihin ang lahat ng nais kong sabihin sa pamamagitan ng pag-kilos lamang. Sa pagsipilyo, ang akala ng Batang Taklesa na sinasabi ko ay, “Your face is itchy?” Ang Mandudura naman, sumabat ng, “Dog!”

Nagpasalamat ako na wala akong kailangang tapusing trabaho noong araw na iyon; kung hindi, mapipilitan akong mag-isip at magsulat sa Ingles. Lahat kasi ng sinusulatan kong magasin at pahayagan, gumagamit ng wikang Ingles. Isa itong katangian ng mga taga-middle class at upper class   sa Pilipinas – pinaliligiran sila ng wikang Ingles. Tulad ng Batang Taklesa at ng Mandudura, ano pa nga ba ang magagawa nila kundi magsalita na rin ng Ingles?

Ang ibig sabihin ba nito ay nabawasan na ang kanilang – aming – pagiging Pilipino? Maaari, ayon sa ilang manunulat sa pahayagan. Ngunit sa tingin ko, ang pagkatao ng isang Pinoy ay binibigyang kahulugan ng marami pang ibang bagay, tulad ng paglingon sa pinanggalingan, pagtanaw ng utang na loob, pagtulong sa kapwa, pag-aruga sa pamilya, at pagmamahal sa Pilipinas at sa lahat ng pinaninindigan nito. Napakahalaga ang paggamit ng sariling wika. Ngunit kasing halaga nito ang pagmamahal sa Pilipinas. (Hindi ko sinabi ito bilang depensa sa aming pagiging mga “Ingglisero.” Ito ay aking paniniwala.)

Kaya’t ngayon, kasama ng Batang Taklesa, ng Mandudura, at ng Asawa, susubukan kong maging mas kapuri-puring Pilipino. Hindi na maiiwasan ang pagsalita ng wikang Ingles. Ngunit maaari pa ring yapusin ang Pilipinas nang mas mahigpit.

Week 19: Return to my roots

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The Hooligan now goes to school wearing a uniform. It’s the same uniform I wore when I was her age and going to school for the first time (or real  first time. I was a kindergarten drop-out before that). When I tossed that uniform into the hamper for the last time right before my high school graduation, I never thought I’d have a close encounter with it again. Now The Hooligan gets to wear it every day.

Walking The Hooligan through my alma mater’s halls to look for her classroom on the first day of school, I felt some kind of emotion welling up in me. I think I was reliving my first two years there – the dominant memory of that period is of me clinging to the banister at home, shrieking and horizontal because my dad was pulling me away by the legs to take me to school. I look at it as a cartoon now but back then, it was pure terror. Thankfully, The Hooligan had none of that. She was actually excited. Imagine that – excited about school. She had two main concerns: “What if I don’t remember my classmates’ names? When can I go to the playground?”

I’d forgotten about the bell. When I was in grade school, the teachers used a bell (like what ice cream vendors have) to keep students in line. Are they noisy and disruptive? Ring the bell and they’ll shut up. Is it time to line up? Ring the bell and they’ll get in line like ants. Are they too slow walking to class? Ring the bell and they’ll hustle.

All that came back to me when The Hooligan’s teacher took out her bell. You’d think they’d have modernized their take on conformity after three decades. But being like everyone else was a comfort for The Hooligan and her classmates, at least, right now. The classroom was a sea of pink backpacks with either a Disney princess or fairy smiling on the front. (I guess I don’t have to worry too much about The Hooligan being one sheep in a herd. She insisted on getting a bag with a rabbit, not a princess. But it was still a pink rabbit.) Anyway, I put aside all my concerns about enforced conformity when I saw how much fun The Hooligan was having.

It made my throat constrict a bit when I watched The Hooligan walk into her classroom by herself. (She didn’t want me to go in with her. Attagirl.) I must have felt how my own mother did when I finally, willingly, without tears or snot, went to class by myself when it was my turn. It was hard to let go, but then I would have The Hooligan back after three hours so it was time to shove the drama.

It was not yet time for class to begin, and right then, the big difference between boys and girls came out. The Hooligan and her classmates – all girls – sat quietly waiting for class to start. Some mother had the foresight to put a pad of paper in her daughter’s backpack and this daughter gave a sheet each to any classmate who wanted one, including The Hooligan. They all then, still quietly, took out their pencils and crayons and made drawings. The only sound in the classroom was the indifferent hum of the air conditioner. I went to my brother’s school – an all-boys’ school – many times and I don’t remember any of them even making it to their seats before class began. I have an image of one of my brother’s classmates hanging onto the wall by the window frame so he could make his paper airplane fly higher. It would be interesting to see The T-Rex’s classroom on his first day of school.

When the other parents started crowding around the ten-inch-square window to watch their daughters watch their teacher speak, I decided to walk around the campus. There were buildings on spaces that used to have treehouses and stone benches. Yet another building was being constructed on the rubble of the old one where I used to take piano lessons. All the halls and buildings and rooms were now named after a nun or a saint with at least three syllables in their name. I felt some nostalgia for what my school used to be – wide open and less complicated. School then was so simple that our source of fun was flipping up the skirt of an unsuspecting classmate so her underwear would show and pulling out the chair from under another classmate who was about to sit. But I guess the school as it is today is how The Hooligan would remember it three decades from now, so that makes it okay.

It’s been two weeks and The Hooligan is still having fun in school. And I’m eternally grateful. All my musings about growing up and letting go are put in the back seat with the daily chaos of school. For instance, figuring out homework. The other day, I asked the Hooligan if she had homework.

“Yes,” she said.

“What about?” I asked.

“I don’t remember.”

Maybe homeschooling would be better.

Week 9: Watch UAAP Live

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I was convinced it was no coincidence – whenever I watched my team’s basketball games during the UAAP (University Athletic Association of the Philippines) season, my team would always lose. I was in college, an angsty teenager who believed that everything in the universe had something to do with her, even varsity basketball game scores. It didn’t matter if I watched live or on TV; we always lost as long as I was watching.

So, because I loved my alma mater, I skipped all the games from my sophomore year until last month. I just relied on text messages from friends, or the Internet, for updates. It killed me to support my team like that – it felt like trying to eat air. But I had no choice. My superstition had me tied up, good little Catholic girl that I am. The ache, though, faded in time.

And then I married a guy from the enemy court. During the first year of marriage, he came home one day wearing a hat that bore an eagle with an arrow through it. (My college team is the Blue Eagles. His is the Green Archers.) Silly hat, really, but it revealed to me a basic tenet in marriage: all vows are suspended in the fight for UAAP supremacy. I reasoned with myself: it’s moronic to assume that my mere presence – live or via TV – makes us lose games. Still, it took me years to get over that superstition.

I got over it just in time. In the just-concluded UAAP season, The Hub and I trooped to the Big Dome for Game 1 of the championship between the Ateneo Blue Eagles and the FEU Tamaraws. I felt like a giddy teenager again, blending into a sea of blue shirts. Team support this time was enormous compared to when I was in college – probably because we lost all the time then. The lower box seats were sold out by the time The Hub and I got to the ticket booth, so to the very top section it was, bad news for my myopic eyes.

It was a dream game from beginning to end. (Of course, FEU would probably beg to differ.) And everything was exactly the same as when I watched our team years and years ago, apart from the fact that we actually won this time: the drums were still loud enough to get even your kidneys to quiver, the cheers were the same even if I still didn’t understand half of them, the sea of blue shirts was still there. I felt so high I could smell sweet smoke.

I had to keep from crowing and crowing about the game afterwards lest The Hub wear his hat again. But the next day, I got the kids to wear blue.

I didn’t make it to Game 2 (where, incidentally, the Blue Eagles won our third consecutive championship) but I did manage to see the last five minutes on TV. A sweet, sweet victory. Blue Eagle the King!