The Red Book - Manila Again

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Boarding the last available commercial flight out of Saudi Arabia, we took a detour to Singapore and then finally got back to Manila. It's the middle of the school year, I'm well ignorant of my own country, and I haven't really seen our house in many years. I could probably not have returned at a better time.

When I was being enrolled at school, I turned out to be underage. Back then, the age requirement for a first grade student is seven years, and since I was advanced one grade unconditionally back in Saudi Arabia, I was only six. My mom asked me to lie about my age, while she did her trademark smoothtalking to the principal. Good for both of us, I got accepted for two reasons: One, I was a naturally good liar and two, some guy named Andrew left for Australia which left a seat vacant.

During my time, St. Andrew's was still run by the most uptight group of Belgians Missionaries you'll ever know - the CICM. Because of this, educational quality was strictly enforced, the tuition fees were subsidized, there were only boy students, and everything was kidneystone hard - including getting in.

But thanks to the kid who migrated, I got a slot that I could fill, and the slot happened to be in the pilot/best section. In St. Andrew's, the faculty took no steps in showing a kid how near the bottom of the barrel he is. Sections were labeled by alphabet. If you got good grades you're A. If you're a potential cement mixer, street vagrant you belong to section D. I think the governing idea here is to not let the rotten apples mix with the premium ones, because back then people were so sure that stupidity is communicable and political correctness is nonexistent.

Back then we had our facts right.

St. Andrew's was my first real school. I wasn't studying in an office complex. We had real trees around us with a real quadrangle and kids who actually knew how to speak Filipino (and only Filipino). I was regarded as a weirdo back then, as my friends later told me, because my hair was inexplicably reddish, making me think that I was adopted and I was actually the son of a frenchfry kid.

Even during the first grade, I've already displayed an unusual propensity to get into trouble. I had my first fight (or rather I got my first asskicking) barely a few days after starting school. I learned my first couple of cusswords that same day (although I had to ask my mom what Putang Ina Mo means, much to her alarm) My parents was first called in a months later, because I was cutting classes to play video games in some rental shop near our school. This was not the last time that I'll ever have my parents called up for things both computer related and not.

Matter of fact, it was merely a prelude of things to come.

Thinking about it, I sometimes wondered if I would have been better off remaining in Saudi Arabia. But then I also think, there were many things that I could have never learned there. I probably wouldn't have learned to speak Filipino as good as I got,
or learn the proper way of playing traditional Filipino games.

Or eat street food that kept on making me sick, but did so anyway for the next 10 years.

Because man, streetfood is just awesome.

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