Public School Days, 1945-53

by Jaime Laya, May 4, 2015


I fell on a pot and cut an ear. That’s all I remember of when I was saling pusà at Washington Elementary School. The school burned down and when classes resumed in 1945, I was accepted in Grade III at Alejandro Albert Elementary School in Dapitan, surely a trial to Miss Nuguid.

Grade IV was taught by Mrs. Marquez, who wore her hair in a bun and was always dressed in white. Miss Dauz, Mrs. Escandor, handled Grades V and VI subjects. Teachers stayed put and we filed out in twos, from room to room. Albert [Elementary School] had a large backyard and we were each assigned a plot, planting peanuts one semester, then corn, then pechay. Water, we hauled from the Pi y Margall Street canal.


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Left: Arellano High School teachers (1949-53): Standing from right are five of mine: Miss Araceli Teotuyco (Algebra), Mrs. Adriana Ruiz (English), Miss Dalisay Pacheco (English), Miss Magdalena Tapang (Tagalog), and Miss Paz Reyes (Mathematics). Seated far right is Miss Josefa Pabalan (Social Studies); Right: Me in first year

We lived a long way from school, on Karapatán Street near Dimasalang. A bulilit’s jeepney fare was five centavos, but I mostly walked, dawdling and taking different routes each time.

Once, five or six of us trooped to Insular Life Building near Jones Bridge for a DZRH quiz show (“School day, school day, it’s the golden rule day …”). I got picked.  Question: “What’s the name of an Eskimo house?” “IGLOO!!!”

Language was no problem, English in school and mostly Tagalog at home. Tatay must have thought adding Ilocano was too much.

Upon graduating (Cine Heights across Dapitan market), Albert pupils were directed to Arellano High near Azcarraga. Applicants had to take an entrance test and in case I flunked (I was only 10), Tatay’s Plan B was Ateneo. He took me to Padre Faura and said, “Look, it’s okay.” Anyway, I passed and so spent the next four years at Arellano.

I was on stage in first year, among the kids instructed to march across to spell “HEALTH.” Clutching the letter “T,” I got tangled in the curtain, fell, and landed on my butt.

On Wednesdays, Miss Pacheco’s second year English class was practicum on Robert’s Rules of Order. They were homeroom meetings, Juan Macabalitaw presiding. We spent weeks planning a Balarâ outing. I represented the class in a declamation contest (“The Bill of Rights”), pitted among others against René Cristobal, fourth year standard-bearer. I was still in short pants but my Tatay-written piece was great. Well, sometimes                    Goliath wins.

In third year, we watched Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice at Philippine Normal College and, another time, performed La Jota Moncadeña, Ricardo Ledesma at the piano. He missed a bar and our teacher screamed from backstage, “LEDESMA!!!”  For the Junior-Senior Prom (presumably organized to burnish our social graces), I fetched my date on a calesa. She decided to walk home by herself.

I collected stamps and, in fourth year, became president of the Research and Philatelic Society. Mrs. Josefa Marcos, librarian, was the adviser. We played sungkâ every afternoon.

The class raised money enough to donate a stage in time for our graduation, 62 years ago last week. Alejandro Santos was valedictorian; Roberto Guison, salutatorian; Gerardo Sicat, first honor; me, second honor; and Loretta Makasiár, third honor.  Then off to UP we went.

Note:  In later years, the son of Arellano’s librarian became President—Ferdinand E. Marcos; Johnny Macabalitaw, diplomat; René Cristobal, businessman representing Austrian companies; Ric Ledesma, dentist; Alex Santos, Naga City physician; Robert Guison, oil company executive; Gerry Sicat, U.P. professor and NEDA director general; Lor Makasiar, U.P. professor and Gerry Sicat’s wife.

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