Every first Sunday of February, I go back to Mendiola to attend my alma mater’s Homecoming Day.
Mendiola was named after Enrique Mendiola, a Filipino educator and one-time mentor of the Manila Municipal Board.
Mendiola was the site of exclusive schools for boys and girls. But in the ’70s, it turned into a battleground of grievances, where rallies took place. Malacañang was nearby; hence, Mendiola as the perfect choice of rallyists.
I was schooled at Holy Ghost College, much later renamed College of the Holy Spirit. Directly across ours was La Consolacion. Unlike our school, run by German nuns, theirs had Filpinos.
Not far from them was Mapa High School, and alongside, the Centro Escolar de Señoritas as it was called before my time. Their students wore white uniforms with pink piping. Directly across Centro was San Beda, run by Benedictine monks for boys.
German nuns were strict. They wore dark blue veils, a large crucifix prominently displayed over their white gowns. I always wondered how they could stand the heat wearing those dark woolen stockings underneath.
It was the school’s policy to employ only unmarried women or widows, as they believed that a married woman’s place was in the home to look after the husband and children. We did not have male teachers.
As students, we lived regimented lives, seated at our desks with clasped hands. If any girl was caught chatting, her name was immediately written on the blackboard as a “chatterbox.”
We lived by the ringing of the bell, and it rang only at recess. Once out on the open grounds, we ate our homemade baon. If we caught sight of a nun along the corridors, we made a slight bow.
We certainly toed the line. However, one day, after drinking from the fountain under the shady mango tree, we began squirting each other with water, not realizing that the newly-arrived American nun caught sight of us and called our attention. We were petrified and never did this again, for fear of being sent to the Mother Directress’ office to be reprimanded, and constantly reminded to behave like “ladies.”
No one wore makeup or had manicured nails. We didn’t chew gum, as the nuns implied we were not goats. To this day, I refrain from eating in the street, and enjoyed my first hot dog sandwich generously spread with mustard only on my very first visit to New York years later. What a relief for me that there were no nuns around to call my attention.
Following the untimely death of a former classmate elected to organize our very first Homecoming, it was decided that I take over the task every five years thereafter.
In time, however, I noticed the lack of interest among several of them. Perhaps, because they now had families to look after, it became difficult for them. Others had also gone abroad to settle there.
Not a few complained about having to have a new outfit made in the color of our jubilee celebration.
Even former teachers failed to come, as they had passed on.
Our favorite class teacher, Mother Gertrude, who had such a big influence on our young lives, left us devastated when she passed away days before our jubilee celebration.
As we sang “Saan Ka Man Naroroon,” tears rolled down our cheeks.
I remember that, one year, not one of my former classmates showed up. Hence, I resolved not to go back. Although I had friends from other classes, it is different being with those you grew up with, with whom you shared memories.
This coming Feb. 7, however, I will return to those beloved familiar grounds. Fortunately, some are returning from foreign shores to attend what most likely may be our last Homecoming.
Get the latest lifestyle news delivered to your inbox