Her name is Tintin. Tintin Francisco.
She has Strabismus, a case wherein the eyes are not properly aligned with each other. When I asked her about it, she just said, “Sabi po ni mama, lagi po daw kasi akong nakatingin sa ilaw dati.”
While we were walking towards their house, she told me about her grade-2 teacher, “Alam niyo teacher dati pinagdala kami ng kahoy. Akala naman dati, project.”
“O tapos anong nangyari?”
“Tapos yun pala ipapalo niya yun sa mga kamay namin pag makulit kami. Sabi niya, wag daw namin ipagsabi kahit kanino na may pamalo sa ilalim ng mga desk namin.”
I was shocked.
Whenever I get mad in class, I give them a teacher look. Although I admit, there are times that I could not help but hit the desk with my pencil case–but to use the stick for the students?
How about no?
“Asan si mama?” She asked another lady in a carinderia.
“Ay sinundo ka!” the lady replied.
I was worried since Tintin’s mother went to fetch her, and there we were. “Paano yan Tintin?” I asked, “Babalik tayo doon?”
“Ay hindi na teacher hintay na lang tayo dito.”
We went inside the carinderia for a while. I ordered fries so we weren’t bothersome to the owners. We were talking about certain things in class when a guy approached her and asked, “Asan si mama?”
I guessed it was her brother.
“Wala pa. Sinundo ako.”
“Eh paano yun?”
Minutes after, a man in his late 30’s came with an Angry Bird doll. Tintin ran towards him to kiss him; I guessed it was her father.
He gave the Angry Bird doll to Tintin and went away afterwards.
“Wow may angry bird ka.”
She smiled at me, “Pupunta na sa susunod na trabaho si papa. Puro mga artista yung andon.”
Minutes later her mother came. I knew it was her mother because the way she looked at me like ‘oh thank goodness my daughter’s safe’.
“Doon na lang po tayo sa bahay namin.” She said after she went to her boss to ask persmission.
I apologized for the time I took, but she said it was okay. She told me it was a rare opportunity for a teacher to visit them. Besides, she knew Tintin did nothing wrong and she knew about my ‘project’.
Their house is just a ‘room’ with one bed, one table, one cabinet–yep. It was the smallest I’ve seen so far.
“Tenen!” She opened her arms wide, “Ito na po ang munti naming bahay.”
Yes, she really said ‘tenen’. Although even when I heard her happily said that, there was this look in her eyes that told me ‘no one likes this kind of life’.
“Eh diba po apat kayo?”
“Kaming tatlo dito sa kama,” she replied. “Yung isang anak ko hindi na umuuwi.”
“Bakit naman ho?”
“Eh nagustuhan magtrabaho.”
“Natapos ho ba?”
“Grade 4 po tumigil. Eh yun nga minsan hinahatid ko sa school, tumatakas naman.”
“Sana mo maabisuhan pa. Mahalaga po ang pag-aaral.”
She smiled faintly, “Alam niya ho, pero ang hirap niya kumbinsihin ibalik sa school lalo na may trabaho siya.”
I think she meant education versus food to eat.
It made me sad for Tintin’s older brother. Who am I to judge what’s more important to him in his own survival stage?
We talked about their work, Tintin’s academics etcetera. But nothing made me worry as much as I worry Tintin’s older brother.
I was still carrying these thoughts when we were walking towards the highway. I felt hopeless and scared that my kids would return to the let-us-just-finish-this after a year of investing them until her mother told me, “Alam niyo ho lagi niyang sinasabi, sana teacher ka na lang niya habambuhay.”
Sadly, I can’t. But I could be in peace knowing that my students value education on their own.
Student number 31, check.