His name is Michael, Michael Nortia.
His most distinguished physical trait is his cleft palate. 1.22 meters in height, 20.7 kilograms. According to my computations, his BMI falls under “wasted”.
He always misbehaves, and he does not take notes. He is usually the first one to be pointed when a coin is missing, and he always picks up a fight with his other classmates.
He is the perfect target for my first project for myself as a teacher.
“Malapit lang?” I asked him. I was worried because I wore heels today.
“Opo, malapit lang,” He smiled. “Sa may sapa tayo dadaan.”
“Ui grabe! Wag mo idaan si teacher doon sa may sapa!” one of my students said. “Doon na lang sa may palengke.”
“Eh mas malapit doon,” He replied. “Malayo sa market.”
I agreed to him to take the quicker route, though my heel really suffered since the road was really bulky. There were several ups and downs that really made me tired.
“Akala ko malapit lang?” I joked. “Ikaw talaga, sana pinagdala mo ako ng tsinelas.”
For some reason, I felt his excitement.
“Anong trabaho ni mama mo?’
“Patay na po.”
I stopped, and sighed a bit.
“Ilang kayong magkakapatid?”
“At ikaw ang bunso?”
FIVE children. One working parent.
“Nasa bahay mama mo?”
“Opo, andoon. Ayun oh.”
He pointed to a woman who kept saying foul words. I was shocked because he had no resemblance of her.
Their house was made of wood, and it was even smaller than the room I rented in KNL. An old woman was sitting there in front of their TV, the only appliance they had.
“Kayo po si?”
“Mama niya ho.”
I was quite relieved that it was not the woman outside who kept shouting foul words. Though, the woman in front of me was obviously physically weak. Her wrinkles made me think she was in her late 50’s.
“Ano pong problema?”
Quite shocked with her first words, I smiled. “Bago po muna yan, kamusta ho kayo?”
She told me everything. Deep inside, I questioned myself, how would my student be motivated if his brothers and sisters stopped their education because of poverty?
It really did hurt me, but my student’s smile shrugged that off and made me wonder where he got his energy for the day when I knew that he only ate 3 Hao Hao’s for the day.
“Michael, halika nga dito,” I stopped myself from nearly-crying. “Mag-aral kang mabuti. Magbasa ka, okay?”
“Anong gusto mo nga ulit maging?”
He smiled, “Sundalo po.”
After the conversation with his mother, I went home. His mother asked him and his brother to guide the path. We were already in the middle of walking when I realized he had no slippers.
“Bakit ka walang tsinelas?” I asked. “Maraming germs yang nilalakaran mo.”
“Wala akong tsinelas teacher.”
I sighed deeply. “Pag ibibili ba kita ng tsinelas, iingatan mo yun?”
He smiled as if he could not believe someone would buy him slippers, “Opo!”
So we stopped by a store to buy slippers. I also bought him bread, somehow to fill his empty stomach. We separated ways after a few minutes, and I saw how he smiled with that unique tooth as I rode the jeep.
The only question for me now is, how?
Reality. It hurts.
Student number 1, check.