Teaching Parochial Boys
One of the ironies about homecomings for grade school is the difficulty of owning the memories of those years. Being very young upon graduation – twelve or thirteen years of age – our mind and that elusive thing called “heart” are not yet fully developed when we leave our elementary schools. It is in high school, in our adolescence and up to the difficult, terrific ages of sixteen and seventeen, where we become keen about the role our school play in our lives.
And yet when we look back, grade school is the real awakening to knowledge. It is in elementary that we get introduced to subjects, which later would be described as “basic.” In our case, we should realize now how difficult it must have been for our teachers in the Naga Parochial School to introduce to us the basic lessons in reading, writing and arithmetic. They literally opened our eyes to the notion of learning. Much as some of us may have developed good study habits earlier, still in the elementary, the classroom and not the home was ultimately the setting of our education.
I was a transferee to Parochial from a public school in San Fernando, Ticao Island, in Masbate. The transfer of my father from being the Municipal Treasurer of a town in the island to the GSIS was the reason for our journey.
My memory remains vivid on that day of enrolment. My father was with my elder brother, Manong Pempe, and me. My brother breezed through the process. I had to face the principal then, Mr. Parco, who had quite a serious talk with my father. At home, I was informed about the conditions set by the school: they would test if I could cope with the Grade III lessons. If not, they would move me back to Grade II. When the school year ended, I was promoted with the rest of the class (Note how I use the Roman numeral to indicate Grade level)
Was I ever anxious during the first year? Maybe, I was. What occupied my mind, however, was the fact that I – we – missed the island and our house behind the church, my playmates, my relatives, and the sea. But there was the long summer break and the vacation in the island.
By Grade IV, I was more or less at ease in the new school. It helped that I had a gentle teacher then, Ms. Josefina Parde. She was so kind that we tried hard not be boisterous in class.
By Grade V, our class was under a very good teacher in the school. She was Miss Milagros Beriña.
She made the teaching of Health & Science interesting. She would assign us to make scrap books about structures of plants and the life cycle of a frog. For the first time in my life, I became interested in a subject. That year was also the time I discovered the wonders of reading when she assigned us to look for the Book of Knowledge in the library. This was a kind of encyclopedia on science, with the cover all in white. In that book, I marveled at the solar system, the galaxies and constellations.
During one of the periodic consultations with the parents, Miss Beriña told my father that she was recommending me to be moved to the Grade VI Honors’ section. When this transfer happened, I did not feel special at all. When you were twelve years old, the world was simpler.
In Grade VI, my world changed again. The teachers changed again. It was clear we were not anymore in the Primary Grade; we were in the Intermediate. In our small universe, it meant we were a bit older, more responsible. It meant also that we would be doing Gardening! This was an activity where each student was asked to take care of one plot, weed it, water it, and plant it with whatever crop or vegetable was deemed appropriate for our age. That time, it was pechay and eggplant.
Being in Grade VI meant you prepared to leave.
For all the gratitude I felt in my heart, I do not remember looking for Miss Beriña to thank her. I don’t think anyone of my classmates ever really made any formal farewell to our teachers.
We were moving on – to a more vibrant life in high school, to a bigger life in the university.
It has taken some 75 years (in my case), to think that I really never thought of saying thank you to my teachers or to all the teachers in the Naga Parochial School. But they are in my memories: Miss Calleja, Mrs. Ojeda, Miss Esteva, Miss Cañaveral, Miss Britanico, Miss Verdadero, Mrs. Ayo, Mrs. Torralba, Mrs Estrada, Mrs. Prado, Mrs. Reyes, Mrs. Arejola, Mrs. Relativo, Miss Britanico, Miss Parde, Miss Oliva, Miss Espinas, Miss Poloyapoy, Mr. Prado, Mr. Bisenio, and dear Miss Beriña and many more.
Who was it who said that a teacher affects eternity because you never know where her influence ends? I like that quote. Not in seventy-five and not in a hundred years, but an eternity for us to express our gratitude to our first teachers in our school.