Three Dates and A Gate

upis-logo1

After two decades of suspense, it’s finally going down.

The UPIS gate, that is.

It’s been a roller coaster ride of “what ifs” and “what nots” that ends now in one of the most moderately anticipated, anti-climactic plot developments in the ongoing drama that is UPIS. But instead of a barrage of protests, what caps the saga is a grand alumni-organized picture-taking party before the bulldozers and jackhammers finally start mutilating the landscape of my beloved non-alma mater; all this to give way to a corrupt government’s road-widening pre-election papogi-points project.

The gate figures in three significant events in my life, so I’m going to reminisce in honor of its impending transplant several meters inwards of the school property’s soon to be gerrymandered frontage.

😈

The Summer of ’93

On the return drive to UPIS from a Katipunan lunch date with two female colleagues from the English Department, I noticed that my brand new Ray-Bans were not in the car. It was a special pair I had bought with my very first paycheck, so the thought of losing it barely a year after buying the item freaked me out. I dropped off my companions and lost no time rushing back to the restaurant where we ate, thinking that I most probably left it on the table we used.

We had been gone from the place no more than 10 minutes, so I was confident that if I had left it there, the waiters would have it in safekeeping until I came back to claim it. But it wasn’t there and the waiter who cleared our table said that we didn’t leave anything behind. I ended up having a heated argument with him as I suspected him of pocketing the item. I returned to UPIS fuming mad.

Just before I got to the faculty room, one of my two lunch dates passed by me in a rush, hurriedly excusing herself because she told me she had to get home asap. I was kind of hoping that she and our other companion would at least hang around for news of my frenzied search, but I just waved in resignation and proceeded to my table area in a melancholy drift.

And then I saw my lost shades on top of my table, in plain sight.

I ran outside as far as the main gate, but it was too late to catch the diabolical wench of a friend responsible for my early afternoon angst. All I could do was grasp an area of the chicken-wire fence beside the school’s main gate and shake it violently while shouting expletives of endearment to the smugly grinning beeyatch who was still within earshot . I later learned that she, my sensuously-derriered faculty smoking buddy, Cindy Cruz, was the brains behind the prank.

I got my sweet revenge only after two years when I married her.

:mrgreen:

The 2003 Carla Baful Project

It was a year of banner headlines. Literally.

Every so often, then Principal Abuso (no, not a joke) would commission a streamer for every bit of achievement that virtually anyone from the UPIS community would…uhm…achieve. For a time, the school’s facade looked like it belonged to a second-rate institution trying to woo potential enrolees by advertising student and faculty accomplishments in chaka fashion.

It was also UPIS’ Golden Age of Beautification, as various attempts to cosmetically enhance the school grounds were employed in support of what I could only suppose was an Imeldific “If we look beautiful outside, we feel beautiful inside” philosophy. Whether it was meant to inspire peace, love, and understanding or academic excellence, I’m still not sure. At any rate, the campaign probably reached its height with the sprouting of “Zun” gardens: those aesthetically quirky landscape enhancement projects undertaken by (then Asst. Principal for Administration and current UPIS Principal) Dr. Aurora ZuΓ±iga.

Anyway, Carla Baful was my ultra-beloved Kamag-Aral 7-10 student council president in 2003, and the “Carla Baful Project” was the cleaning and repainting operations done on the school fence (gate included) as a “school pride” project of the student body.

After a whole day’s blood, sweat, and jeers, we were able to transform the school’s rusty, flimsy, semi-useless, human-sized chicken-wire perimeter fence + gate into a relatively clean and newly-painted, flimsy, semi-useless, human-sized chicken-wire perimeter fence + gate.

πŸ˜†

The New Millennium 3rd Quarter Storm

Chronologically, this should come second, but it’s last because it should be.

Six months after the successful storming of the main gate during President Estrada’s last State of the Nation Address, an emboldened Anakbayan UPIS was holding a rally just outside the main gate. Many had already decided not to go to school, and instead held short programs and a noise barrage to try and convince schoolmates and passersby to troop to the ongoing rally at the EDSA Shrine. It was January of 2001, and EDSA Dos was already underway.

I was still the UPIS student council adviser at the time. Even at the height of the SONA incident, I was already explaining to the students how the administration recognized their right to participate in mass actions concerning matters of utmost national importance; but how at the end of the day, they were all still minors placed under our care. If anything untoward should happen to them on such an occasion, the responsibility would fall on our shoulders and the possible consequences for UPIS would have constituted a grave threat to its continued existence.

Although I was one of the more beloved teachers at the time (no, not a joke either) this reputation apparently was not enough to spare me from being branded a neo-conservative instrument of repression under the control of then Dictator-Principal Hermosa’s nurturing but otherwise fascist basic education laboratory school regime. And so, there the students were again, openly courting confrontation with the professorial elements of the 1st and 2nd Pavilion’s teacher detachments. Being the feudal throwback I was perceived to be at the time, it was no surprise, then, when I went to confront the students gathered outside the gate head on.

I proceeded to argue (in the strongest possible terms that the Code of Ethics for teachers would allow) that the tension wasn’t really warranted because if everyone just waited a bit, sa loob lang ng ilang oras, dismissal na at may pupunta rin naman talagang faculty dun sa protesta. I guess my wealth of Collective Bargaining Agreement experience in the area of student grade considerations paid off as the students opted to terminate the program (although most probably because they weren’t really making that much of an impact as attendance that day was already dismal to begin with as a consequence of the EDSA rally.)

I still managed to herd in a couple of students, though, and it was when the student demonstrators were already well on their way towards the direction of the main UP campus grounds that I then noticed the one teenage girl who stayed behind. She was a student of mine; one of my best and brightest, and her name was Erika Salang.

Sometime after the SONA, Erika decided to stop schooling as her nationalist convictions prompted her life-changing decision to become a revolutionary soldier of the Communist New People’s Army. (To think that just a year earlier, she was one of my most beloved advisees in 8-Cicada.)

In class, Erika was always the smart, dependable, critical-minded student who time and again would save her peers from mind-twisting, teacher-thrown, killer questions that could have otherwise ended up as take-home essays or some other form of troublesome requirement. Outside class, she was one of the very few trusted nannies to my 6-year old Chloe during times when I still had to grudgingly attend to office matters. Those were also the days when she and I would get to know each other as musically-kindred spirits. (On a couple of occasions, in fact, she would even invite me to watch the Jerks play in 70s Bistro.)

That day at the gate, back in 2001, she would crush me with the most painful words I’ve ever had to take from any student in my whole life as a teacher. They took the form of a question, and were not simply the bitter ramblings of an irate student lashing out in defiance of an authority figure. They were the emotionally devastated cries of a person who, after expecting support and encouragement from a trusted friend, found unconscionable betrayal instead.

“Sa lahat naman ng tao, bakit ikaw pa?!?”

She was crying profusely as I tried to calm her down and reason with her, but she wouldn’t relent. Although we were still able to talk for a while, we were unable to resolve our differences. We parted ways that day, in more ways than one.

The emotional scar I received from that confrontation has never healed. And whenever I am reminded on occasion, the weight of the disappointment is such that I always end up wishing that I could somehow be given the chance to go back to that moment, not to try to dissuade her or even strengthen my case. I just desperately want the chance to give my friend a parting embrace if only to reassure her that in spite of all the confusion and disagreement, she was still someone I loved very much.

That was the last time I would ever see her alive.

In March of 2006, I received word that Erika had been killed in action when her guerrilla unit encountered elements of the Philippine Army’s 31st Infantry Battalion somewhere in the province of Camarines Sur.

If that fucking gate could talk, the stories…

😐

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27 Responses to “Three Dates and A Gate”

  1. viray Says:

    hi sir cabs! i really liked this.
    tara, kunin na natin ung gate! πŸ™‚

  2. Sir Cabs! I distinctly remember the Carla Baful project, hahahaha! =D And yes, I was part of that “group” in the gate na nasabihan nyo na umalis na…eventually we made it to EDSA 2, mga past-4pm na, after dismissal. hehehe.

    • cabring Says:

      Yup, nagpunta rin kami nung araw na yun. Dapat pala hinanap ko na lang kayo, hehe. πŸ™‚

  3. Daddy Bear, you make me miss UPIS more. (:

  4. i miss UPIS. 😦

    Great blog! You’ve always been one of my best teachers, ever. πŸ˜‰ Apir!

  5. sir cabs, erika will always be with us. i bet she’s watching over you, smiling…

    • cabring Says:

      Either that or may nakatutok na AK-47 sa ulo ko, haha. I really wish I could talk to her one last time. Well, who knows, right? Someday.

  6. Klara Says:

    Sir, na touch ako sa post niyo. Miss ko na rin UPIS.

  7. Bossgrrl Says:

    You so need to use this for your column πŸ˜›

  8. powerastaman Says:

    Brod sino bang pulitiko may kagagawan nyan at nagpapa-pogi ngayon? Palagyan kaya natin fly-over alma mater ng gunggong?

  9. sir cabs! pag naiisip ko yung gate, naaalala ko na sobrang baba nya na pwedeng akyatin for takas-route kaso di mo gagawin sa sobrang kalawang nya heheh.

    kelan gigibain?

    • cabring Says:

      Ang balita sa akin ni Chloe, yung gate na lang ang nakatayo dun pero yung sidewalk binakbak na. mukhang ihuhuli yung gate. Pwede pa nakawin. 😈

      • Hahaha. Natatandaan ko din na ninakaw yung
        electrical wires natin para ibenta.
        Mukhang mabigat sa kiluhan yung gate. \;)

  10. nakawin na!!! haha. hi sir. =)

  11. meggie Says:

    talaga lang ayin nakawin ha? hehe

    sir nakakaiyak naman yung post nyo…nakakamiss lalo

    naalala ko once literal na ako nagbukas ng UPIS gate nung yung guard nagrorounds pa sa pavilion around 5:45am (or may guard na ba nun?). 1st sem, grade 7, nakisabay ako sa kapit bahay naming taga-meriam na super OC at takot sa traffic. madilim pa nun, no choice kundi mag-stay sa bench sa labas at magpakain sa lamok kung ayaw mo ma-multo sa classroom.

  12. selena Says:

    hi sir cabs πŸ™‚

    i googled her name because i was trying to find pics of her on the net (since i’m out of town right now and don’t have access to my files at home) kasi magsususlat ako about her (anniv niya ngayon) and i found this. thanks so much πŸ™‚ naiyak ako pero ganyan din ang tingin ako sa kanya… i have so much admiration for her.

    cheers!

    • cabring Says:

      Daluyong ’02 has a facebook group. May mga class and school events pics dun si Erika. πŸ™‚

  13. Rubie Says:

    Sir Cabs! Super touching itong post nyo. How I missed UPIS. πŸ™‚

  14. jooka Says:

    very moving…
    ikiiiii for Cindy Cruz
    hahaha for Carla Baful (just because si Carla un) and
    aaaaaww for Erika Salang. saludo ‘ko sa kanya!

  15. ann repuyan Says:

    hi sir ganda ng blog mo ah..hehehe..

  16. touching…

  17. ma'am teret Says:

    Hi Cabs
    Oy maganda na ang bakod! At masaya pa rin yung ibang nasa loob ng bakod. Isa ako dun (kung nasa sa loob lang ng depto at ng klase ko). Sa akin magagaling pa rin ang mga estudyante ng UPIS. Kung minsan lang tamad magbasa. Pero, ganun talaga ang ikot ng buhay — masipag, tamad, atbp.

    • cabring Says:

      Hi, Mam Teret. I’ll be dropping by soon sa UPIS. AAng laki na ng atraso ko sa inyo, sorry!

  18. […] I was in 7th grade, some bastards from Ateneo High School drove in front of Β UPIS and shouted “IS Buloook!!!“ My friends and I, sitting on the grasses of the Β baseball field were the only ones who […]

  19. Late reply.

    … MORE BELOVED TEACHERS?!?

    Hehe. πŸ˜› Hi, Sir.

  20. An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto
    a co-worker who was conducting a little research on this.
    And he actually bought me breakfast due to the fact that I found it for him…
    lol. So let me reword this…. Thanks for the
    meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending time to talk about this matter here on your blog.

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