His name is Jerome. Jerome Nayre.
I could not describe Jerome as specific as his other classmates. He recites when he is called, plays in his seat during recess, participates when he is called to participate–basically he does what he is told to.
His grades are neither too low nor too high. But good news was he never had a failing grade.
Jerome was the ‘key’ to how my bag was returned. He never spoke to me until someone told me that he knew who lived across our room. He would not talk unless you speak first. Well of course, there’s an exception during recess.
We took a fast route by the back of the school. We were with Hanip and Jemil since they live near each other.
But unlike the other routes I had traveled, the pathways that we took were so narrow that we had to wait for people to get out first before we could even come in.
There were half-naked men who call me by ‘psst‘ and ‘saan ka pupunta babes‘. But since I was with my students, I did not care. Those men called Hanip and Jemil and asked who I was, and of course my students replied that I was their teacher. They were shocked.
Jerome’s father was lying on the floor watching TV when we came. He immediately rose when he saw me, and set the toddler on the floor.
“Wala ho mama niya, namalengke ho.” He said.
“Okay lang po,” I replied, and of course I had to explain why I was there. “Binibisita ko lang ho talaga sila isa-isa.”
“Ano ho bang problema kay Jerome?”
“Ay sa totoo lang ho wala. Siguro sa English po kaya pa po niya taasan ang grades.”
“Ah, sige ho sasabihin ko na lang ho sa mama niya kung ano yung mas dapat pag-aralan ni Jerome.”
By that, I sensed he was ending the conversation.
Before I went, I gave the money for the P.E. uniform back since there were no more orders coming.
I was about to go when I had a last minute conversation with his father.
“Pasensya na ho namamalengke ho kasi mama niya. Sasabihin ko na lang ho.”
“O sige ho, ano ho bang trabaho ng mama niya?”
“House wife ho.”
“Construction worker ho. Tuwing Martes lang ho ako umuuwi.”
He did mention his employer, but I already forgot.
“Ay swerte ko ho pala naabutan ko ho kayo. Kamusta naman ho si Jerome dito sa bahay?”
“Okay lang, minsan tamad. Pero okay naman ho.”
After a second worth of silence, I stood up and said goodbye. Through his body language I assumed he was uncomfortable talking with someone he first met, but of course I was Jerome’s teacher so he felt like he needed to talk to me.
After that, Jemil, Hanip and Jerome guided me to the market where I could safely ride a jeep.
I spent like only less than 10 minutes in their house, the shortest visit I ever had.
Student number 22, check.