Her name is Liza. Liza Paming.
I have so many students with long eyelashes, and one of them is Liza. Actually, there was a time when all of their eyes sparkled.
I always see her mother who would bring her to school then fetch her at six in the evening. On the third of March, I was supposed to visit her after Alyssa but since I went out late, I didn’t pursue.
Today we waited at the bahay-kubo for her sister and her mother. I treated her iskrambol just because she wanted one. When her mother and sister came, we walked.
“Buti maam bumibisita kayo sa mga bata.” Her mother suddenly said.
“Opo,” I replied. “Parang proyekto ko sa sarili ko.”
“Ang bait niyo maam. Buti pa kayo may pakielam sa mga estudyante niyo. Yung iba kasi talaga wala eh.”
Her mother was still smiling while Alyssa and Liza held my arms.
“Taga saan po kayo?”
“Sa Philcoa ho ko nakatira.”
“Ah. Kami malapit lang din kena Alyssa.”
“Oo dapat nga ho kahapon kaso ginabi kasi ako kena Alyssa.”
Liza said that we were almost near their house when her sister disappeared.
When we came, there was a guy clothed with many towels sitting in front of the door. Her grandmother was watching TV.
I waited for Liza as she dressed up.
“Kayo ho lola nila?” I asked.
“Opo. Sorry maam minsan kasi makulit yan si Liza.”
I think she thought I was visiting them because Liza had poor conduct.
After a few minutes her mother and her sister entered the house with a 1-liter RC softfrink.
“Hala di na po kayo dapat nagabala!”
“Okay lang ho maam.”
They were busy preparing merienda for me, so I smiled thinking how Filipinos were said to be maasikaso by many tourists.
I explained to them my project to myself on visiting all my students. I told them the Liza was the 44th. i began to ask more personal questions as time went by.
“Sino ho pala yun? Papa po nila?”
“Ay hindi bayaw ko po yun.”
“Asan po papa nila?”
“Matagal na pong patay.”
By then I sipped RC, so there was a moment of silence.
“Ano pong nangyari?”
Surprised, I coughed the softdrinks I drank. My heart began to raced. The material of killing was specified–initak.
“Pinagtripan po. Brgy. Tanod po kasi yun.”
I could not say anything. Pinagtripan? Was it that easy to take away someone’s life today?
“Kailan pa po?”
“2008. Saktong pinagbubuntis ko tong bunso.”
“Ilan po ba sila?”
“Tatlo. Ito hong ate nila ang panganay.”
There was an awkward silence. I could not think of a way on how to jump to another topic. It was nice of her grandmother to began to ask.
“Kamusta ho si Liza?”
“Okay naman po. Minsan lang madada, pero makakapasa naman po si Liza.”
“Ay akala ko ho kaya kayo andito kasi sasabihin niyo na bagsak si Liza!”
“Ay hindi naman po!”
We were chatting about Liza’s condition in class when I noticed her older sister. I asked what grade she was in.
“Grade 5 po.” Her mother replied. “President nga ho yan nung section nila. Naaalala niyo ho yung kuya ni Andrea na hinabol habol niya? Sinira kasi nun yung project niya.”
“Hala ganon po.” I reacted, “Kaya pala. Akala ko basta lang nag-aaway. Ikaw ate ha, class president ka pala.”
My eyes began to wander their house and saw candles hanging on the ceiling. There were also sacks with something hard inside. “Ano hong laman nito?”
“Mga wax po para sa kandila.” Liza’s mother replied.
“Yan po yung pinagtatrabahuan niyo?
“Ay hindi po. Trabaho po nila.”
She was referring to her in-laws, I guess.
“Bale tagahatid. Tagasundo jan sa kabila. Minsan tagalinis.”
We ended our conversation by a simple thank you for letting me visit them. When we went out, a boy in his teens suddenly showed up.
“Kuya ho nila.” Her mother said. I was confused since I thought there were only three of them.
“Akala ko po tatlo lang sila?”
“Kapatid po sa ama. Baby po siya nung napunta dito. Eh namatay yung nanay niya nung baby pa lang.”
“Inatake sa puso.”
“Grabe pabata na ng pabata yung mga namamatay ngayon. Joke ko nga sa kanila kanina, mamamatay na ako dahil hindi sila nakikinig.”
“Sabi nga po ni Liza. Kwinento po niya nung naiyak kayo sa klase. Naiyak nga din po siya.”
“Hala, bakit siya naiyak?”
“Eh naramdaman po niya bigla yung naramdaman niyo. Naawa.”
I think it was not pity that Liza felt; it was sympathy. She was behaved the day I cried to them and told them my frustration of not handling them well… and the days after that.
She would never forget to do a “mano” before she leaves school.
Now that I could remember, when was the last time Liza fought her classmate? I think it was somewhere between the first three months.
Student number 44, check.