I am a product of the public education system, and based on the way I turned out, public schooling in my country can’t be that bad. I spent two years of my kindergarten and six years of primary education at Dole Cannery Central Elementary School, four years of secondary education at Polomolok National High School, my college at the University of the Philippines. Furthermore, I took several units from the Universiti Malaya in Kuala Lumpur and Hanoi University of Foreign Studies in Vietnam both public institutions of higher learning in both countries.
If you spent most of your years of schooling at a public school in the Philippines you should have experienced any of the following:
1. Your teacher was selling ice candies, yema balls, colorful threads for your HELE ‘kinds-of-stitches’ project, art papers for your organ systems projects, and anything imaginable to her students.
2. You were scared to death by the rumors that your school was a former cemetery or that a ghost of a teacher who died of a violent death is haunting your classroom.
3. You spent and hour or more of your time every day watering plants, pulling weeds, scrubbing the floor or planting cabbages in the vegetable garden of the school.
4. You remember clearly well that the class bully was the stupidest student in your class.
5. Bringing of home-made sandwiches made from mayonnaise and Tasty loaf bread to school during recess was a sign of being well-off that can either inspire respect or scorn from your classmates.
6. Staple afternoon games played while waiting for dismissal were Chinese garter, hide-and-seek, tumbang preso, luksong tinik, patintero. (In my elementary school we had 21, dampa, bahay-kubo, baguongay, takyan, baseball using tennis balls and the arm of a chair for bats).
7. Going to school not in uniform and wearing slippers were not prohibited.
8. You escaped from class before the afternoon dismissal time to watch Japanese animations such as Cedi ang Munting Prinsipe, Sarah ang Munting Prinsesa, Maria at ang Pamilya von Trapp, Ghost Fighter, Flame of Recca, Mojacko, and Gundam
9. Some of your classmates professed to be prophets of God capable of ‘performing’ miracles which had earned them a significant number of gullible followers which might have included you (but of course, something you will vehemently deny).
10. Your teacher had a basin she used for peeing and all her bodily needs since restrooms were non-functioning. These heavily ammoniac bodily discharges were used to water plants that inevitably made these plants, most of the time bougainvillea, smell as sweet.
(This note was written a long time ago, sitting untouched with my other files. I only remember that I have written this note that enumerated the things I experienced in my elementary school after watching the play Mababang Paaralan ng Caniogan, one of the featured plays in the Virgin Labfest V held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. And I was surprised with the almost similar experiences the three characters have in their school in Luzon to that of ours in Mindanao.)