His name is Kenli. Kenli Norbe.
During the first days of class he would talk nonstop. He would have at least a sum of 15 warnings every week, and he would even escape in the very last subject.
But now, he’s so different.
For a week he’d have a sum of at most 5 warnings every week, and he has a good record of attendance in class. He actually wants to be in school and ask stuff like:
Teacher bakit ang payong hindi nababasa?
Teacher may light pollution ba?
AND A LOT MORE. I knew he’s a scientist. His sparkling eyes, his cheeks and his fangs made him a lot cuter.
Earlier, I asked him to return the tray. When he got back, he was really teary-eyed.
“O anong nangyari?”
“Pinagabono po ako ng limang piso sa canteen.”
And that’s what I’m telling everybody. I never looked at that coin the same way I did when I began teaching here.
“Kasi teacher may lalaki tapos lumingon lang ako kinuha na niya yung limang piso. Eh teacher grade 6.”
“Sige, hanapin natin yung grade 6 mamaya. Wag ka na umiyak.” Then I gave him five pesos, “Ito.”
I knew Kenli’s house was far, so we left school as early as we can. On the way he spitted like three times, and of course I had to reprimand him three times. We had an unexpected conversation while walking.
“Sinong nasa bahay?”
“Si mama. Wala na si papa eh namatay.”
He told me that for the nth time, but I listened anyway.
“Nabunggo siya teacher. Basag yung ulo niya. Tapos tinawagan si mama, tapos nagsasalita pa noon si papa tapos namatay na.”
“Di ka ba nalulungkot?”
“Hindi. Okay lang. Mabait naman si papa.’
I had no more words to reply. Mabait naman si papa.
We rode a tricycle as soon as we get to Litex. Inside it he asked, “Cher ano yung binibigay mo kena Jason? Yung mga papel?”
“Binibigyan ko non kapag tapos ko na bisitahin. Ikaw ba? Anong gusto mo?”
“Gusto ko lang cher gulay.”
“Ha? Bakit gulay?”
“Kasi cher ang payat ko eh. Gusto ko tumaba.”
I laughed at it. I mean, who wouldn’t?
Everyone was doing the ‘lagot ka’ sign as we passed by, but Kenli said ‘hindi bibisita lang si teacher, diba teacher?’ to them. I sat on their chair as I waited for 30 more minutes for his mother; she went to the hospital for check-up.
It was already 6:30 when she came, and immediately said, “Hala teacher bakit ka andito?” then followed by “Maligalig kasi yan teacher eh.” She sat then continued, “Teacher kakagaling ko lang sa ospital kasi nga galing akong binat ang sakit ng buong katawan ko. Tapos itong mga to nabibigyan ako ng sakit ng ulo. Ang hirap teacher. Ang hirap mag-alaga ng anim na anak.”
Without talking, I listened to the story of her life. She grew up without parents, and finished until grade 6. When her supposed-to-be-sponsor died, she escaped towards the city to find work. She married afterwards.
“Nako teacher kung alam niyo lang nung namatay yung papa niya. Ala-una na ng umaga nung tinawagan ako, alas siyete nung nakarating ako tapos namatay na pala. Halos hindi ako makagalaw, hinang-hina ako. Parang ako na yung nabunggo. Ang sabi ko sa kanila teacher, mag-aral ng mabuti kasi ayokong maranasan nila yung naranasan ko. Gusto ko makatapos sila ng pag-aaral kahit igapang ko pa yan. Sabi ko nga sa kanila kawawa sila kapag namatay na ako katulad niyang babae pang umaga yan pero alas kwatro na umuwi. Alalang-alala ako kasi nga sa TV may mga 5-years-old na nirerape pa. Magbibihis sana ako tapos sakto dumating.”
Yes, I wasn’t speaking. I just listened.
“Yang si Kenli alam ko matalino pero hindi niya magamit yung pagiging madaldal niya sa katalinuhan. Yung kuya ko alam niyo teacher, madaldal yun. Baka doon namana ni Kenli pero siya teacher. Kaya nga sabi ko kay Kenli gamitin yung kadaldalan niya sa katalinuhan.”
After she said those things, I replied, “Alam niyo ma’am, si Kenli po talaga noong una napaka kulit! Pero ngayon, sobrang nagbago. Alam ko matalino to eh, isa kasi siya sa mga palatanong. Sabi ko nga pwede siya maging abogado o scientist pero gusto niya ata maging pulis. No, Kenli?”
I am very grateful to meet a parent as responsible as Kenli’s mother. She works until dawn for her kids to have baon, and encourages her kids to value education.
I logged in to twitter and saw the hashtag #SaSchool. I was hurt when I saw the tweet that says “#SaSchool we aim to pass, not learn.” Couldn’t it be both?
This tweet makes me think what kind of educational system we have and what values do we, teachers, bring. What kind of world we have. What kind of people we are. What kind?
Others see school as a burden; Perhaps as hell… A waste of time. Meanwhile, others see school as their dream… Their haven… Their savior.
Student number 38, check.