We were naïve kids when we first met. Some were more boisterous and assertive than others while the rest were like lost flightless birds. What we had in common was an aptitude in Science and Mathematics that enabled us to pass the two-stage exam of an unnamed high school for the nerds. We did not know at that time that our four years together would blossom into friendships that would last more than two decades (and counting).
We spoke different languages (might have included Huttese and Elvish) and had varying levels of stubbornness and incredible self-belief common among teenagers, the perfect mixture of a dramatic bomb waiting to explode. We lived in dormitories where we had to wash dishes once a week for a year, shared rooms with complete strangers (in my case, with two girls from Samar), and competed for shower time because some of us took a lifetime to take a bath. With nobody else to turn to (because we were physically far from our families), we became each other’s allies. We woke each other up just in time for the nightly inspection of the dorm matron who checked whether we were studying, sleeping, gossiping, taking a bath, room hopping or loitering during study time. When we had free time, we gossiped since we did not have TV sets in our rooms. There was only one TV set in the girls’ dorm which was turned off at 730pm! There was a time when I watched X-Men in the cafeteria and for some unknown reason it finished at 740pm, ten minutes after its designated time (this was before local TV channels disregarded their own schedules). I almost climbed up the window in the second floor just to get in the dorm, but to my relief the dorm matron opened the door. I apologized profusely, but I knew that it was one more check for loitering on my record. This was in the 90’s when mobile phones or tablets were unheard of, so we had a lot of personal conversations—some were profound but mostly they were just about the XY-chromosomes bearers (boys) who lived in the building around 30 meters from ours.
A high school like ours offered superfluous science subjects that almost snapped my synapses (how’s that for alliteration?). The accompanying books almost snapped my back, and I maintain the claim that those colorful and highly-technical books are the reasons why I did not grow taller (yes, genetic and environmental factors have nothing to do with my height). We did our best to keep up with the lessons—from memorizing scientific names of common flora and fauna, balancing chemical equations and solving the angle of a projectile to proving that angle X is congruent to angle Y. For me, the worst was three years of geometry. 🙁 I have vivid recollection of our geometry teacher calling each of us to prove something on the board! OMG! I wanted to spontaneously combust right in front of the class because I could not prove anything! In the deepest recesses of my mind I was thinking, “hmmm, they looked alike and they kinda measured the same. Why on earth do I have to prove they are congruent if it is obvious. Why?!?!” Of course, I could not say those things out loud without earning the wrath of the teacher. So, I would dutifully copy the given, write incomprehensible letters beneath it and wait until someone from the other groups prove that angle X is REALLY congruent to angle Y. That wait would stretch to several minutes if all the groups were represented by girls. We would just smile and turn beet red until the teacher would tell us to sit down so she could explain how easy it was to prove that God exists love is forever X ≅ Y. My ignorance in geometry made me dread Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Thankfully, our teacher was merciful because she did not fail me. 🙂
We also devoted two years of our lives for Science Research otherwise known as the bane of my existence. My partner and I chose to do something that involved bacteria, might be due to peer pressure or lack of ideas or both. In the pre-internet era anything with the word “research” in it is synonymous with “doomed to failure”. We ended up with “Antibacterial effect of furfural from the extracted pentosan of rice hull on Bacillus subtilis and Staphylococcus aureus”. Yes, it is a mouthful. Doing it was a pain in the behind. After a year or so of researching, distilling the rice hull, culturing the bacteria, and washing the petri dishes, we had to type our paper. The day before the due date, we successfully typed 80% of the paper without saving it, then the lights went out. I wanted to cry out of frustration but stopped myself. Lesson learned, save the file every minute.
On the day of the thesis defense, we were able to answer the questions to the best of our abilities with some guesses here and there, a big no-no in the scientific world. Now I call it poetic license. We were almost done with the Q&A portion when our Chemistry teacher asked us to draw the structural formula of pentosan. Okay, I looked it up and it has a lot of rings, no way the 16-year old me would be able to answer that. That day ended my career as a budding scientist. Hehehe.
High school was not just about books and beakers. Thankfully, our school did not want to develop socially-awkward and culturally-inept teenagers. We had dances and parties that included but not limited to Acquaintance parties, Prom and Graduation Ball. We were able to watch prima ballerina Lisa Macuja and Osias Barroso perform Don Quixote. Moreover, we were able to attend the Nutcracker performance of Krasnoyarsk Ballet. I have a memory of a Noli Me Tangere show but I am not sure. It might be from another phase of my life.
When it came to projects, teachers’ directions were used as mere guidelines, not fixed rules. When the teacher said that she wanted us to apply our knowledge in factoring quadratic equations, it did not mean that we turn in a half-ass project with three quadratic equations. It meant writing our own book like the “choose your own adventures” series with the solutions to the quadratic equations as the page numbers where the reader would proceed next. It also meant decorating the project with glitter glue, iridescent ribbons and sticking a flower pot on the cover of our project. It also meant making a pop-up presentation, a 3D project before 3D became cool. I did not know that 13-year old could be so imaginative. When our dorm matron said that we would have an open house, it did not mean that we fix the bedcovers and make sure our underwear are out of sight. It meant a grandiose presentation that included a song-and-dance number while visitors gaze at the bonggang curtains, live plants and gleaming floors. When the teacher said we have to prepare for Linggo ng Wika, it did not mean that we show up on the day of the program to clap for our favorite group. It meant weeks of practicing late into the night the sabayang pagbigkas or folk dance because our section or batch should win, no ifs no buts. This competitive spirit is very much alive to this day. If you happen to join our charades or spur-of-the-moment trivia quizzes, you will know what I mean.
Our collective experience during the formative years of our lives is the glue that keeps us together, perhaps not physically but emotionally. It is the same glue that makes us one in spite of the cracks that have found their way to our solid foundation.
This post is for my high school classmates, some of whom I actively see regularly. John, Virg and I have our trips and movie dates. Jun and I have Dance Moms, MasterChef Australia and Malala Jackson. Jed and I have Sunday lunches and annual reunions. Edsel and I have our New Year’s Eve tradition where he brings his leftover food to our house. 🙂 Laurence and I have chocolate cakes and I-get-his-good-stuff-for-free thing. Abuso. Drey, I hope that we will see each other more often. To those whom I have not seen in ages, I hope you are all well. 🙂
EDIT: I wrote more about my high school experience here.
We go on trips together, to laze around in beaches, climb mountains or explore caves.
For the past four years (not including last year), we visited churches in Luzon as part of our Visita Iglesia.
Guys, thank you for more than 20 years of friendships that transcend time and distance. To borrow Buzz Lightyear’s catchphrase, “here’s to infinity and beyond!” 🙂