Every year since I finished high school, around March and April, I get constantly bothered by an uneasy feeling. I usually get fast and hard thumps on my chest and a troubled tummy. I get anxious, nervous, and fearful that something bad is about to happen even when there’s none. It has become so much of a normalcy that I already have a name for it — “End of the School Year or Graduation Season Woes.”

I finished high school in 1995, but I did not graduate. I studied at a non-graded school, from Kindergarten to Senior High, where students learn and master lessons at their own pace, and unlike other schools, students do not receive numerical grades (during our time, at least), but rather checks (if passed) and squares (if failed).

Unfortunately for me and to make a long sad story short, I was not able to finish all my (graduating) requirements on time and graduate with the rest of the batch because of poor choices and priorities. To make things worse, I kept everything from my parents.

I fooled around instead of prioritizing my studies. I lied to my parents even up to the point when I already knew things had gotten worse, and I already needed (their) help. 

I lied to my parents, humiliated them, and broke their hearts and trust in me.

In order not to repeat my graduating year though and still be able to enrol for freshman college on time, my mom had to practically beg teachers to allow me some time to finish all my requirements. I was given only a week and a half to finish a year’s worth of Physics, Trigonometry, and Geometry. A year’s worth in a week and a half. 

I was dang lucky enough to even be given another chance, so finish, I did. And I was able to enrol for college the same time as everyone else.

Every time I’d share this story, people are left in awe at how I was able to accomplish all those in less than two weeks. What they fail to see though is how and why it had come to that. I fooled around and lied. I chose to have fun and defy my parents. Plain and simple — there’s absolutely nothing amazing about that, at all. And if given the chance, I wouldn’t want to go through it again; I would do things differently. I may have learned lessons from it later on, but the difficulties and hurt I had put my parents in, are totally not worth it.

That’s why, after all these years, I still get these bothersome feelings around graduation season. It reminds me of a time when I was at my most foolish self. It reminds me of a time I hurt the two people, who despite the betrayal and lies, still chose not to leave me alone to deal with the mess I have made for myself, and forgive me for it.

And I guess that’s also why, after all these years, I continue to share this story, not just so that others may somehow learn from it, but also, in the hopes that with every re-telling and sharing of the story, I learn to forgive myself as well.

*Photo borrowed from the internet.


What I Get In Return

Our office had our Christmas party yesterday. Like all office parties, ours had its share of unnecessary stress: program, presentations, delegation of tasks, games, and most particularly, raffle prizes. We encountered an obstacle in the raffle prizes, which made me decide to just waive my participation since I believed I had office mates who needed it more than I do, and to relieve everyone who was part of the organizing group, myself included, anymore stress. 

I didn’t expect that they would still print out my name and include it in the raffle, but apparently, they did.

Fast forward to the raffle, where I was called for one of the major prizes: a two-burner stove. I waived, and my prize went to one of our office drivers. It was not the noblest of acts, but it made me glad that even in just a small way, I had made someone else happy.

There was still one more prize left though: the grand prize. It’s not as grand as a gadget, an overnight or weekend stay somewhere, or a car, but it was still something that can be of great help especially to most of our staff. I wasn’t aware that the raffle prizes team included all our names again for the final draw. But guess what? I won. Again.

My initial thought was to accept it and just give the prize to someone else in our staff who can bring it home to his family. I sent my mom a text message sharing with her the news and my plan. My mom suggested I accept the prize, and share my blessings with more people (by ‘more people‘ we mean, more families who cannot afford even a single decent meal). You get the idea, I think.

Acceptance. I am not the best at handling stress – the wrinkles and lines on my face would attest to that. It took me a while to realize that most of the stress I encounter are unnecessary, and that there are times when I should just let go and let God. “Hope for the best, do and give your best, and let God take care of the rest,” as the wise say.

Sharing. My parents have shared and instilled in me and my siblings the value of sharing and generosity; that even if we are not well-off and just manage with what we have, if we see someone in need and we can share, we share. It was never an instruction or a directive, but rather a trait passed on.

Though there are times when I forget, those are what I ‘get in return‘, I think. The love and support of my family and friends, and the opportunities to share myself and what I have to other people.

Those are my blessings. Those are my gifts every Christmas and every day.


Flashback to a few weeks ago, I was asked to help ‘little girl’ review for her 3rd quarter exams. ‘Little girl’ had already failed the previous two quarters, with grades of 72 and 73, and needed to do really well in this exam to be given before the holiday break. So review we did with the very little time we had. ‘Little girl’ is very bright, who just needed a little bit of push, so I was confident that she would do fine. I left their house that Sunday afternoon with high hopes and my fingers crossed.

This afternoon, I received a text message from ‘little girl’s’ mom thanking me for the help I’ve given her. Turns out, ‘little girl’ had gotten an 84 for the third quarter. Definitely a huge leap from her 72 and 73.

The news made me smile, a genuine one — the first time in weeks.
I have been feeling kind of sullen the past couple of weeks. Nothing seems to cheer me up; Even the ones that usually do the trick can’t seem to work their magic. I have been feeling kind of lethargic and sad, unproductive, and feeling a bit inadequate like I’m not doing enough. Maybe this is midlife crisis? Nah, too early, too soon. I’m only in highschool anyway. Although there is no shame in feeling such, one should not dwell too much.

It’s funny how just when I was really being too hard on myself, yet again, for whatever reason or whosoever’s doing, I wake up and open my eyes — wide enough for me to see how foolish I have been. Through the kids I help study every weekend, their parents, and my family and friends, I was made to realize that I am not inadequate, and that I should not dwell too much on my sadness and hopelessness. I was made to realize that as little as it may be, I am of help to someone. I have a purpose.

It’s just like that most of the time, we need to be reminded of our value or worth as persons because unfortunately, we have a tendency to either forget or neglect, or someone fails to see our worth and makes us feel that way. And it shouldn’t be like that. Actually, we should not even rely on other people just to see our worth. 

I have been schooled again. Another day, another lesson learned. Taking baby steps to become much wiser every day. Borrowing the words of Og Mandino from one of my favorite books, The Twelfth Angel, “Day by day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.”

Yes, I am.

Toys, Books, and Memories

I bought a hula-hoop about a month ago after I had read somewhere that the toy actually helps in keeping the midsection lean and gets rid of ‘bilbil‘. I don’t really know if it actually works. It’s the mere thought of how fun it could be that made me get one, considering how much fun I had with it when I was a kid. Well, it turns out, just because you were awesome at something in your youth does not mean you’re going to be just as awesome at it as an adult. But that’s not the point.

It’s been years since I last visited a children’s toy store. I had forgotten how it has always left me in awe. How lucky kids are nowadays with the countless shelves of Legos, board games — old and new, dolls (!) — who knew Barbie had so many competitions already, bicycles of different sizes and colors, robots — various kinds of toys. The best part is, for specific toys in the store, children are actually allowed to play. It’s a far cry from how toy stores were when I was kid. It’s also a wonder how most kids nowadays would rather spend hours on their tablets and gadgets instead.

I remember those trips to the toy store with my older brother when we were much younger. My brother would instantly run to where the G.I. Joe’s, Transformers, or Legos were, and I, to where the Barbie was. At that time, and considering our family’s situation, those trips were a luxury, and most of the time, it would only be just to window-shop. When it came to toys, we relied on what our Mama (grandmother), aunt, and uncles sent us from the States. Those toys were gems to both my kuya and I, and later on, my younger brother.

Other than the toys and the trips to the toy store though, one childhood memory I am very fond of would be the trips to the bookstore at the old Everlast along Quezon Boulevard, just a little past Banawe Street. Every time my older brother and I accomplished something remarkable in school (or at least passed all our subjects), we were assured, not just a trip to the bookstore to window-shop, but a book of our choice each. My brother and I entered the bookstore with the same amount of enthusiasm, maybe even more, with a toy store — eyes-wide open with joy, with matching extra bounce in every hop. There were times when we would even bargain with mom for a second book, after asking her if we had enough money for it.

I cannot remember exactly how my parents did that – – – making my brothers and I appreciate books over toys at a very early age. That’s how our love for reading, and for me later on, writing, had started. From Bible stories, to all the fairy tales, and later on in our teenage years, Sweet Valley High, Spy vs. Spy, Mad, and Archie Comics — those were what we treasured as kids.

More than the trips to the toy store and the bookstore, or the toys and books we have acquired in our youth, those childhood memories and experiences taught us the value of knowledge, of hard work, of patience, and of giving importance to what we have.

Being taught early on to learn from everything — books, experiences, other people; to realize and work hard for our dreams or what we want; being taught early on that sometimes what we want isn’t always within reach, and that we would have to wait, at times, wait long; and when we finally have what we want, we take care of it.

Toys that can be manipulated, books that can be read and learned from over the years, and memories we keep going back in time for, these are some of the things that have helped shape and mold who we are now. The same things we hope to pass on to our children as well.

*Photo of some of the books of my youth. October, 2016.