QUIRINO ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
In the middle of a low cost housing unit (Homesite) along the fringes flanking Ateneo and Cubao, lay Projects 2, 3 and 4. It was a community where, once upon a time, celebrities spent their childhood. Remember actress Stella Suarez of the 60s? Before she was recruited to tinseltown she was fond of climbing all Caimito trees in the area. She is the mother of hunk actor Richard Gomez. There was also a child runner who later became an actress and comedienne Nova Villa. And there was Jay Ilagan, another actor and opinion writer/ columnist Art Borjal of Philippine Star. Former government officials Roilo Golez, Francisco Tatad and scientist F. Landa Jocano were also former residents. And there was PBA legend Alfredo Hubalde , Tour of Luzon Champion Cornelio Padilla and International Chess Grandmasters Ruben Rodriguez and Eugene Torre; and singer composer Mike Hanopol who coined the term “Jeproks” a play on the word “Project.”
On a sprawling one hectare expanse in Project 2, an edifice would rise—Quirino Elementary School. It would be a breeding ground of scholars who would later be absorbed in the mainstream of government service and business world. A few years later, a brass 5 meter monument of former President Elpidio Quirino would also occupy the center of the campus. The monument would serve all students its amusing reminder. The sculptor may have something honorable in mind when he built it but for us students the monument was that of a guy, standing tall and erect, left hand on his side and right hand folded near his chest, with fingers trying to roll something which he picked directly from his nose!
As throwback, by way of reminiscing those nostalgic moments during the early stages of QES, I could not but with moistened eye compose a soliloquy on how it was before.
I started formal schooling at Durian Elementary School, adjacent Quirino Elementary School because my mother confessed that QES authorities were strict in the admission program. I was only 6 years old at that time and 7 years old is the standard age for Grade 1. After Grade 1, I was transferred in the newly constructed building where I was the teacher’s favorite. Since I was the freshest and ruggedly the smallest, perhaps youngest too, cleaning the classroom, scrubbing it with “bunot” and sweeping the entire landscape easily earned for me not only the respect but the adulation of my adviser.
Our class picture would say it all. While all my classmates were in their best Sunday dresses, I was in the far corner looking more like a street urchin! But I had my fill, my enjoyment and satisfaction. Seeing the glow in the face of my teacher (Mrs. Baira) after appreciating the cleanliness of her class room not to mention the fact that bullies from higher grades never attempted to trespass my room, or they would be hacked by a mop, made me a favorite go-to guy. I could not recall whether I recited that I intend to be a janitor when I grow up during one class exercise. Probably, I did. But trauma made me forget about it right after my mother nearly fainted hearing it from me.
I never had a gift of remembering names, even those of my classmates (unlike Raynard Ramirez, the classmate of my sister). I was already a fledging artist even at an early age and artists are never known as literary minded since their attention are always on physical details and forms. I could only utter haltingly some first names. Others specially close friends; I would even give them their nicknames or aliases for my recall.
But I always remember my beautiful and pretty classmates. I could draw them from memory! They would all belong to my heart. And I know them their complete names and addresses at that! There was Belen Maglalang (our class valedictorian), Lorna Diaz, Irma Navarro….
After we graduated, we enrolled in different secondary schools. Some of them went to UP Diliman. Most of them went to a nearby Quirino High School. Some of them christened it “Queriknoll” to add exclusivity and match Maryknoll, a high-end college. I enrolled hastily in nearby Roosevelt Memorial High School before transferring to the Boys High of FEU. It was fun at RMHS. A neighbor, Kiti Cambal who enrolled in it virtually renamed the school to have a ring of distinctiveness— as “Flowerbelt Memory School!”
From my batch(1966) in QES, we would contribute a lawyer (Elmo Abad), a priest (Ed Caluya), accountants, businessmen, government functionaries (me included) and academicians. I never had an occasion to meet a classmate who has served time in the penitentiary where I was working. While I never also had any chance of working with them since we all scattered after graduation from elementary, all I had were information coming from neighbors that most of my classmates have left for abroad.
Facebook afforded me the linkage necessary to check further. Indeed, some of my classmates and neighborhood barkada (Alfredo Tabayoyong, Elmer Moreno, Elpidio Andaya, Lando Gatela, Boy Santos, Ador Jaballas, Bert Velasco, Fidel Monasterial, to name a few) were having their grand time abroad.
Last time I checked (accidentally through Facebook again), the kid beside me in my grade 1 elementary class, Art Galindez, the one I would usually copy for his matured etchings and drawings until I got his talent for arts, is already a doting grandfather! This year I would have also my senior citizen ID card with a proud thought that I am also an alumnus of QES.