SECTION ONE, GRADE SIX
My entry into the elite batch of section one during my elementary days is still shrouded in mystery. While it is true that all my classmates were the brilliant, superior kind, it is therefore understandable for them to be there. It is not tradition but grades mattered. Not only were my classmates the studious type, they are also clean, prim and proper. They looked better, handsomer, prettier, what more can be asked for. They had the looks and the intelligence. There was no way for them to fall. Their projections meant success already. They can even challenge the gods of luck and they would still succeed. There was one thing which Section One had one thing in common for its members, they had the charms and they were leading a charmed life. As for me, I personally do not have charms, except when I got it belatedly during my adventure days in college. And it is not even the charms I was referring to which my classmates earlier on enjoyed, my charms was more like an “anting-anting” pa.
I still could not even get the logic as far as schooling in grade school was concerned. There was this Durian Elementary School, a public school. And then, across the street, the Quirino Elementary School, was also another public school. Why two public schools in virtually the same spot? Anyway, I was enrolled in Durian for my first grade. The flooring was still dirt and soil. When it rained, the soil becomes muddy and the classroom becomes a veritable playground much like how the primitive conducted their primal learning during the Stone Age. But I had fun. I could not forget the girl I was seated with always, Fourdeliza Javier, she would always be in her best Sunday dress. I also could not forget the boy whose hand I envied for its dexterity in drawing human figure. I remembered befriending him, Art Galindez, so that he will not fold up the paper where he drew fantastic figures. From there, I would also spend a considerable time duplicating his art works, copying comics and finally, coming up with a master piece—Superman in skirts!
After, well graduating, from Grade One, my mother transferred me to a newly built, newly painted school across Durian—- THE Quirino Elementary School. It boasted of a sprawling campus and in my estimation before, a “state of the art” home economics building and a “high-end” canteen, featuring my favorite snack—macaroni soup with sprinkling of milk. I dreamt of staying in the canteen if only to get ahead of the cue for that heavenly soup. I would earlier on try myself to be an entrepreneur so that I could have the necessary added allowance for a third helping of the soup!
In Grade Two, I would get to know the most beautiful, the prettiest girls in the campus, the Irma Navera, the Lorna Diaz, the Susan Villafranca, the Azelvita, the Flourdeliza, the Fe, the Belen, the Maria Lourdes, the Pacencia, the MaryAnn and so forth, all of them. They were all lumped in my classroom. I would also have the privilege of having as classmate during that formative period, the brightest and the most active boys in the sprawling ground of the school. I was blessed to have this stimulating group of young boys and girls as my classmates. I could not recall how I competed with these crème of a batch. I do not even remember an instance if I passed the quiz or exams. All that I can remember was when our teacher would regularly announce, “get your one-fourth sheet of paper for quiz!” I could not even recall if I have read something. But what I could not disregard was the pronouncement that if anyone is caught speaking Tagalog, there will be a fine. I do not even remember if I opened my mouth during that period because of the prohibition!
Then Grade Three. It was only in this period that I had a complete grasp of what was happening in my academic environment. It was also during this time that I was able to read a book cover to cover! Although as early as my kindergarten years I could already read, it was only during my grade 3 year that I was able to remember I have used such skill. It was also during this period that I became aware of how great my classmates were. I became conscious too on their intellectual preparedness. While I never had any concept of what gender was, it was during this time that I learned I was a boy. This I learned the hard way after some school bullies would drive me crazy for their antics. I was virtually the smallest, give and take a few of us, the youngest too and the most vulnerable whenever there were muscled, hefty and aggressive senior boys who would shake me down during recess time. It was also a reawakening for me to carry a bladed weapon for my defense. That was confidence building. With something glistening in my pocket and letting the bullies peek on it, I would literally be respected.
In Grade Four, I was like most of my classmates, behaved and disciplined. We knew where we should begin. We knew also when time was up. We were a bunch of saintly children, inhibited to express anything juvenile. The only behavioral excesses we could display were during field days. It was however very unfortunate that my parents never allowed me to join “Bravery” programs in scouts. I was a Boy Scout only in paper. I envy the Elmo Abad, the Elmer Gloria, the Alfredo Tabayoyong, the Benjamin Velasquez, the Edgar Javier who were all poster boys for youthful, scouting adventures. Not only were they the favorite crush of all beautiful girls in the campus, they were virtually the idols of the passive sector, including me.
In Grade Five, the great divide had been defined. The boys were really boys, the girls were really girls. The boys were given plots in the garden to maintain. The girls were sent to Home Economics. I envied the girls because I also wanted to be in the Home Economics building where the food was! In the garden, we have to wait for the vegetable to grow. It was only during field days when we would be all in one batch.
In Grade Six, I would miss some of those fellow “farmers” in the school garden. Only a few boys would be included in Section One. It was predominantly composed of girls. I could only play second fiddle to girls and almost at the bottom among boys. The girls were all scholarly. The boys were all adventure. I could only see myself as appreciating how the girls could memorize vast tracts of poetry and how the boys could be impressive in their vocational artworks. It was also a period when I have to be secretive to my parents, embarrassed at the thought of presenting to them my card with low grades. I had no rancor however. What can I do in the first place? I happen to belong to a Batch considered legendary in terms of beauty and brains. I could only enjoy being in their shadows. That for me was the most memorable.