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This used to be my playground

/ 07:30 AM December 25, 2018

When I was a grade school student at the Ateneo de Manila in the ’80s, things were simpler. The school year always started in June and ended in March, with breaks in October and then again in December.

In the mornings, we would be roused from sleep, down a quick breakfast of cornflakes and OJ or hotdog and rice, and take a short ride to the campus in my father’s car. Our stroller bags were heavy but we raced down the walkways, carefully steering clear of the towering acacia trees and the higad (caterpillars) that seemed to multiply as the months trudged on.

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Christmas was an anticipated event not only because of the gifts we would receive, but also because we always spent it with our cousins in Laoag, Ilocos Norte, my mother’s hometown.

Before we could make the 10-hour trek, however, we had the salu-salo scheduled on the last day of school. There was always so much food and softdrinks served at these class parties that I remember once volunteering to bring disposable utensils, and nobody made a fuss.

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I mention this silly, random memory only because the school I spent a third of my life in has changed so much that I can hardly recognize it.

“Ateneo is not the same,” a childhood friend messaged me after learning about the bullying incidents that came to light last week. “Too big na rin,” he added.

Did the school really change, or am I romanticizing the 16 years I spent there from prep to college?

I have only fond grade school memories of Christmases and salu-salo, ghost-hunting in the rock garden during class nights, and devouring book after book in the library and then later at the EMC (Educational Media Center).

Friends who know me have long teased that I have a selective memory—I choose to remember only the good, and block out all the bad or sad memories. They may be right but I don’t mind. I am grateful for my superpower.

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