Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bragging Rights

It was one piece of real estate in my little town that was worth watching out for as I pass through the Pateros bridge on my way home. While our richer neighbors use state-of-the-art electronic billboards to communicate with their citizens, our little town by the dead river uses tarp posters to do this. But I must confess that I find the posters quite interesting, and is a welcome respite from the boring monotony of the chaos on the streets.

Each time the tarp changes, I would spend a little more time to read the new message, or appreciate the artwork like when they had the twin feasts of Sta Marta and San Roque. Just recently, the latest announcement did not just deserve a cursory glimpse. I must have caused the other drivers to let out a good amount of expletives as it took me longer to digest what I read on the tarp. My elementary school, Captain Hipolito Francisco Elementary School (or CHFES) was on the tarp - not just once, but twice. Wow-wow-wee!

CHFES was in the tarp because it emerged on top of the list of primary schools in the Pateros-Taguig area in the just concluded National Achievement Test. It's annex placed some notches lower, but still in the top ten. Why am I bragging about this? Because my little school had always been considered as a "saling pusa" compared to the older and more established schools in Pateros. It brings me immense pride because our family has a special connection to this school. It was established while my father was secretary of the barrio council. There are four of us in the family who graduated from this school, where my mother was the treasurer of the Parent Teacher Association for the longest time - even when I already graduated. My parents also allowed the school to use part of our garage as a classroom, and I literally would sit in on classes because the dining hall window directly opens up to the classroom.

I was admitted to CHFES after just turning 6 years old, 1 year ahead of the 7-year-old requirement. My mother was not PTA Treasurer-for-life for nothing, hahaha! My grade 1 teacher was Mrs Cagadoc, a prim and proper lady who taught us to read and write with books about Nilo, Nena, and Bantay. I have very fond memories of this teacher, may her soul rest in peace, as she demoted me several sections lower in Grade 2. Maybe it was because at such a tender age, I showed streaks of rebellion. After being reprimanded for a minor infraction that I could no longer remember, she asked me to stand in the corner. I refused, and instead of following her order, I took my bag, walked out on her and went home.

It was a very small school, with only 3 school buildings and a small canteen at that time - the fourth building being the Barrio Hall. There was another 1-room building across the street, and the garage-cum-classroom in our house about 200 meters away. The building I remembered most was the two-story structure in the center of the compound. The slightly sunken ground floor was for the Practical Arts classes for boys, while the second floor was a classroom that doubles as a stage during programs. How do they do it? The wall facing the open space of the compound can be removed in its entirety and the building becomes a huge stage. That ingenuity really amazed me! Unfortunately, by the time I graduated the building had been torn down and we had to mount a cemented stage in its place.

I have a lot of fond memories of this school, and I should write about them at another time. But for now allow me to brag about its achievement. It is no small feat, and is testament to its loyal and hardworking teachers and administrators. Like my little town, it is a small school with a big heart.