The life lessons that one learns during the childhood years are almost always so difficult to forget. Take our very first weeks of elementary school at a former boys’ school in Matina, for example. For those who had not been well-oriented and greased by a year at kindergarten, shell-shocked might have been the close enough feeling one felt there. While the size of both the school premises and its student body may truly make one gape in awe, the rat-a-tat long list of rules to follow, make for a more lasting (and not short of traumatizing) impression indeed.
From the headmaster or school principal, down to the teachers and the boy scout master, a torrent of what’s and what-nots were fed on us on a daily basis. And this did not include school subjects, just the rules.
Even at that early age, I had reckoned right away that reason for this was that Jesuit education at the time may have believed repetitive exercises do not make one forget. In short, practice makes perfect. I remember one time, we were forced to sing the national anthem until we got it right. Our classes were suspended for that, as we had in total consumed at least two class periods for that.
Even during recess or lunch, there would be no respite, as we would dutifully be reminded of frowned-on minor offences, unruly behavior, or just failing to cover our mouths when coughing at the table. In these instances, it would be graders from the upper levels who would boss us around with them courtesy tips and the like. So very much like the kuyas and the ates at home. But in uniform.
I am not at all familiar with the ways of schools nowadays, but what I know is that, during our time, there was not much fuss about “sensitivities”. In fact, grade school (and later high school which was worse) felt more like a military camp, with our teachers as the disciplinary MPs. Unlike the softer system of today, we were meted a row of punishment, from writing out our offenses a thousand times on sheets of paper (which improved penmanship), to duck walking among others, and lastly, actual caning using a long slat of bamboo for major major offenses.
Despite all the makings of a medieval age setting as compared to today’s mod standards, the primary and secondary school of old were really not that bad. You can even validate this when you ask any survivor of the time, come school reunions in December.
Truth is, our generation may have had no choice but to live and endure that particular time in school. It may also for these reasons that one feels a certain pride in the experience, with battle scars to boot.
When one thinks about it, the bottom line of the whole affair had been to instill a sense of discipline and to make us mindful of rules. As I know it, these objectives have remained, despite the different ways at pursuing it with each new generation. That is just the way it is.
Next year, our high school batch will be celebrating our 50th year anniversary. That’s fifty long years of water under the Bankerohan Bridge. This is the same bunch of graders who first entered the gates of that Matina grade school half a century ago. Boggles the mind just thinking about that.
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