Red Book: Back To The Philippines

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

We arrived in the Philippines shortly after the first quarter of the school year. We were only in Saudi for two years, but bear in mind that at the time I was only six. Given that most of my memories started at age three, that already accounts for more than half of my memory. Philippines became just as strange as Saudi Arabia.
The first priority when we got back was to reintegrate back our educations. My sister was enrolled back to her school before she left, and I was enrolled to a school right across hers. I had no problem passing the entrance exams. I already read, wrote, and did simple arithmetic at the time. Unforutunately, because I was advanced a year during preschool, I was a year short of the minimum age requirement of entering first grade at that time. It was then that I learned a lesson through my mom that I'd use a lot later on in my life: There are few problems that you cannot solve with a white lie (my age) and bags full of swiss chocolate (Toblerone).

Thankfully, there was this one kid, Francis I think, who had to leave for Australia or something. He left behind his books and a slot at the top section of first grade. The only thing I ever knew about him was that he sure loved to draw penises on pictures in his textbooks. I didn't quite get what was so awesome about helping out making the illustrations more anatomically correct - at least until I tried it. Anyway, even up until now I wonder if I did deserve to be in the top class, or if it's just because Francis left an opening that I got in. But at that time, I didn't really care. For the first time, I was in a real school that wasn't converted out of a small-scale office so it was an upgrade.

I was introduced to the class and most kids, some of them didn't really admit it until we were already in highschool, found me weird. And understandably. I had red hair back then. Read: RED. HAIR. I don't know if it's the water in Saudi, or the heat, or eating all those shawarmas, but my hair was troublemaker red. Thank goodness the polluted air of Manila happily worked on making it black in just a few months. I spoke English, hoping they'd understand me better, and it was the first time I realized that no, not all kids spoke and understood English. Specially not in the Philippines.

Speaking of firsts, that year was a great big bag of firsts for me. On the first day, my classmates were nice enough to teach me how to say "Putangina", but not what it meant, which I happily asked my mother after I got back from school. It was probably the shock of a lifetime, but looking back it was just a sign of bigger things to come.

After the first month, my parents were already called up by the teach for the first time. It most certaintly didn't become the last. I cut classes to play videogames during lunchtime. Age six. Yeah, you just know I'd grow up to be the rebel. It was crazy. I didn't even know what I was doing was illegal when I did it but I quickly learned that the easiest way to determine which is legal from not is that the illegal things get you beat up by your parents. Cutting classes? Illegal. Big time.

On an interesting note, our teacher Mrs. Miranda is still teaching to this day, 22 years later. How somebody does something over and over again every year and not get tired of it is a miracle of discipline becuase honestly, if I spent a day working on the learning of my younger self, I'd probably be in prison for homicide already. It's a good arrangement. I stay away from teaching and my ass, in turn, stays away from prison rape.

That same year my grandmother died. She was the only grandparent I can say I really knew. My two grandfathers passed away before I was even born, and, well I didn't really know much about my other grandmother.  It was the first time for me to experience death within the family. All I remember was that she went missing, and the last time anybody saw her was having her hair and nails done in a parlor - something she never really did before. My mom sometimes says it's because grandma had a feeling her time was up. I suppose it kind of makes sense. You're born naked and sticky and crying on your way into this world, the least you can do is make yourself presentable on the way out.

I took a few days off of school and we went to Quezon for a supposed birthday party. It was not until we arrived and I saw the casket that I learned that lola had died. My sister and cousins were crying. I couldn't find it in me to do so. Perhaps I was too young to cry. I sometimes think I should've. No that it'd change anything, but I feel that it would've been more proper.

The same way I shouldn't have skipped out on classes earlier that year.

But I guess that was what being six was like for me.

Not really knowing anything about the world, until you see the consequences later on.

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