Stories Need To Be Told...

...lest they dissolve into oblivion.
There are moments that need to be captured and made eternal simply because there is a wealth of emotions and spirituality in them. Painting a picture with words is one of the ways to immortalize these for people who were not there and for the future generation.
This is my contribution....



Friday, March 11, 2011

BLAST FROM THE PAST


The concrete/steel fence looked the same. Even the paint looked the same. But inside, I could tell there were a lot of improvements. My heart started to beat a little faster as I caught a glimpse of the Amang Rodriguez Building. An avalanche of flashbacks from my youth hit me. I had to pull out a breath from deep within. Amang Building was were I spent my junior and senior years of high school. The most challenging, the most fruitful and life changing moments of my school years. It was during these years that it was decided, I was to be in the profession I practice now. It was when my first few feathers of the gangly wings were born. Now, I am in full flight - able to migrate and go back. I owe a lot to this mother.

The huge steel gates opened and I manoeuvred my car into the campus. Twenty eight years ago, I came through these same gates on foot. I was one of 29,000 students.

To visit, in a car, with the gates being opened to me with gracious greetings of “Magandang umaga po Ma’am!” gave me both pride and humility, all in the same space and time.

I parked my car in front of the new structure – The Alumni Building. This was a product of the joint generosity of those who, like me spent four years of their lives in this campus – learning, developing, and growing.

They say high school is a crucial turning point in any person’s life. This is where the transition between child-hood to teen-hood happens. Now that, in itself is a whole universe to the one going through the process. Names like, Rene Saguisag, Bobbit Sanchez, Neptali Gonzales. Gel Santos Relos, resonate in my head, and pride swells within me. These are my brothers and sisters, once cradled in the arms of this generous alma mater

Across the street is the Caruncho Gymnasium, named after the Mayor who was in office at that time. It is a huge edifice and I distinctly remember how our PE class were the first to use it, even before it was completed. I closed my eyes and an old familiar rhythm slowly came back.

"We will... we will... ROCK YOU... ROCK YOU....” the old cheering competition between year levels.. My batch always won. On my first year, we tied with the seniors (which was a first). Then from my sophomore to my senior year, my batch always took the gold home.

There were a myriad of other memories. Some made me smile. Some made me cringe at the stupidity of youth. Some just... took me down memory lane, to how I was before I was me, today. I won't go into details as I am sure most, if not all of them hold relevance only to me. Perhaps, relevant to those who I shared them with - my classmates, my batch mates. Suddenly, I miss them. The old dear familiar faces...

The uniform is the same from my time. I call it cherry red plaid. Our competitor school called it ‘gulaman at sago’ . Haha. We called theirs, bagoong-alamang. Arellano High School’s uniform was maroon.

The view from the second floor of the three-floor Alumni Building was perfect. It was cleverly designed that it had balconies both in front and the back. The front balcony gave the view of the academic part of the campus-the old and new buildings. The back balcony gave a magnificent view of the oval track and field. All green, luscious, well kept. The tracks were regulation standards. The bleachers were just...perfect.

She was just beautiful.

All around, the old trees whose shades we enjoyed twenty some years ago are still there... Childishly, I greeted them a silent hello. Even more childlikely, I wondered if they remembered me. The wind was blowing gently and the leaves were rustling. I smiled and took it as their greeting for one of their old friends. It was a beautiful day.

In a way, this was home, and it felt good.

HERO


My deep telephone conversation with a friend was interrupted by the shrill trill of sirens.

Looking out the window, i saw a flock of motorcycles, about 50 of them, in formation. Then I saw firetrucks, red and shiny, in formation as well. There were white balloons tied on the sides, doing a boogie with the wind.

Then I spotted it.

The mightiest looking firetruck among the group. Atop it, perched on a ladder was a coffin, draped in the Philippine Flag. It was surrounded by 'honor guards' - men from the fire bureau in their dark blue office attire, complete with cap. They stood sturdily at the sides of the coffin, with a stoic expression on their faces.

Something tugged at my heart as I took in the whole scene. Fifty motorbikes, each with a single white balloon tied to it; a parade of firetrucks, about eight of them with lights flashing; this one remarkable firetruck with its precious cargo; and about thirty more vehicles at the tail end.

I stared at the big firetruck with the flag-draped coffin. The bumper was covered by a tarpaulin where a picture of who I supposed was the deceased was printed. He was in uniform. He looked distinguished. He looked kind. He was smiling. He looked like someone's father, brother, husband, son. I couldn't help but wonder though, who he was in the context of all these people who came out on a Sunday, prepared for all this, to send him off.

Like a camera lens, I zoomed out to take in the whole scene again and I thought to myself "Boy, this man must be loved, to be accorded this kind of ceremony. Simple but very dignified. What a way to be sent off."

That is when the word came to the fore of my consciousness.

HERO.

He must be one. At least to all these people who came out on a Sunday to say goodbye to him, with this much respect. He must have carried his duty to the hilt. He can't have been a VIP, not to the general population anyway, because I am quite sure I would have heard about him, and his consequent death.

I looked at this somber parade. I tried to study the faces, specially of his 'honor guards'. I did not know him- this dead man. I did not even know his name. But I felt a sense of loss in his death.

Maybe it is just the times in this little archipelago I call home. Where an accomplished general goes to the tomb of his mother to shoot himself in the heart. While, another faces yet more seemlingly endless inquiries while the country endures another whiplash from corruption.

Maybe my heart was in desperate need of a hero. One who is just one, for the sake of it.

Maybe this firefighter, whose name I did not even know.

I hoped he was a good man.

I still want to believe they exist.

HEROES.

We could use some.

Right about now.