His name is JM. JM Laguardia.
He’s a smart boy, but he misbehaves a lot. He would always be on my warning list, and actually, I decided to visit him because I could not stand him hurting the girls in class that day.
I knew he was nervous while we were inside the jeep so I talked to him for a while.
“Ilan kayong magkakapatid?”
“Malapit lang ba?”
Then he nodded his head. My questions were answered that way, either a nod or a single word.
He walked in a very fast pace that I could not almost catch up, though he would stop for some times just to check if I was still at his back.
When his mother saw me, she panicked a bit. “Ano nanamang ginawa mo JM?!”
“Pwede ho ba pumasok?”
She grabbed a chair, made JM buy something for me, and hurriedly clean the house. It was obvious that she was nervous as well.
I explained to her that he was actually on my top list for English, Science and Math. The problem was his character.
“Nasa top ho siya pero yun nga ho… Pag dumating yung EP grades baka mawala.”
“Sa totoo lang ma’am ngayon ko lang naranasan na magkatop yan. Kita niyo naman ma’am yung card niya dati panay 76.”
“Ay ma’am wala akong problema jan pagdating sa academics. Isa yan sa mga magagaling sa Math at Science.”
“Pasensya na ma’am. Simula ho kasi nung nagkamild stroke yan.”
“Anong nangyari po sa mild stroke?”
“Basta nung grade 1 po hindi naman ho siya ganyan kakulit. Simula nung nagkamild stroke ayun. Kaya nga ho medyo tagilid yung isang bahagi ng panga niya.”
I’m no health analyst or whatsoever, so I didn’t speak when she was explaining that it was a result of his mild stroke. I might be telling the wrong things.
“Nung grade 2 pinatawag na rin po niya yan. Eh yun, nadaan po sa pananakot. Sabi ko kapag siya hindi tumino ipapadrop ko na yan.”
“Hala ma’am. Ano po nangyari?”
“Tumino. Pumupunta pa nga ako sa classroom lagi para macheck kung talagang ganon na siya eh. Yung totoo ma’am, pinapa-dipa yan ng tatay niya tapos nagpapatong na libro.”
Oops, I thought. It’s corporal, right?
“Talagang sinasabi ‘kapag bumaliko yang kamay mo papatungan ko yan ng isa pang libro’ sabi niya. Kaya nga minsan ako na yung nagsasabi na wag na niya gawin.”
“Kamusta na ho siya?”
“Iyon. Minsan nga sinasampal niya yang kapatid niya–”
I looked at him as she continued to tell stories.
“Eh sabi ko nga nag-iisa yang babae. Yan ma’am ang hirap po sawayin. Yung panganay nauutusan, siya talaga hindi.”
JM was looking nowhere but down. I could see how embarrassed he was. To lighten up everything, I told him, “JM, diba alam mo naman na hindi maganda manakit?”
“Bukas, sa school, aasahan ko na bang mas mabait ka na?”
“Mag-aaral ng mabuti at magiging BUHOS para manatili sa top, okay?”
He was there, silent. I didn’t know what he was thinking. But when I was a kid, when I was being scolded in front of somebody, it felt like hell.
I guess, he needed more love. I wish I could give that, but truth is it’s hard to give it to them when I am actually… still… I think… surviving.
Student number 17, check.