“Learn to Concentrate…”


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Our SAS Ai scholars pose for a group photo during a quarterly scheduled meeting

“You must learn to concentrate,” the home room teacher, Mrs Salve Lascota advised one of her brighter students. “There are just too many distractions out there. You cannot let your mind wander.”

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Heavily distracted

Young Cristina nodded her head. “Thanks Ma’am Bing,” she replied, somewhat embarrassed for having been caught daydreaming. She redirected her gaze from the window back to her desktop. She even shook her head lightly – as if to clear the cobwebs that seemed to cover her brain. It was two o’clock in the afternoon and she felt drowsy. She and her buddies had generous servings of Halo-Halo topped with ice cream – a deadly combination of high sugar and fat.

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Halo-Halo with Ice Cream

She seemed to take in the advice. But… then she thought, “Concentrate on what? What could Ma’am Bing be talking about?” Cristina is no slouch by any stretch of the imagination. She is a bright young lady, serious and motivated, who dreams of being a dental hygienist someday. But man, it’s hard to stay awake in class in the afternoon, in the oppressive heat, in the asphyxiating humidity. Add to that Mrs Lascota’s sing-song-y presentations that’s so soothing it can lull, even an ornery Tasmanian devil, to sleep.

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Infatuation can be distracting

Truth be told, Cristina is distracted. Big time. And she knows it. It’s that Aglosolos boy from Libtong. Yes, he is a bit rough around the edges, sometimes rude and often ill-mannered but he is a solid young man with a great personality. Charming, crafty, and clever as the asp that long ago coiled around the apple tree in the garden of Eden and seduced Mother Eve into eating the forbidden fruit. So Cristina drifts into dreamland every now and then, thinking about that Aglosolos boy who haunts her every waking moment.

Thinking man

Concentration

Ah… the perils of puppy love. Infatuation. First awakenings. And in high school, things can morph into a wilderness scenario so very easily. Fortunately, we have teachers like Mrs Salve Lascota who, out of love for their craft, their students, exert influence over them, encouraging them to channel their attention to their studies, to focus on their goals, and to concentrate on things that are relevant and important.

Reverie


There were mornings I didn’t want to get up from bed. This was one of those mornings.

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Night Rain

It rained during the night. I fell asleep to the soft, intricate maracas-like sounds of raindrops falling on the co-goon grass roof of our small and humble cottage. The rhythmic sounds were further made into tight percussion riffs by the crickets and night crawlers chirping, by the tiny fruit bats with their syncopated chomping on “kapas-sanglay” fruit, and by the herd of cicadas playing their inebriating kazoo music from the stand of acacia trees.

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Gardenia – Rosal

I woke up to the familiar, musky, animal dropping laced smell of freshly soaked ground – a parched patch of earth that once stood arid and dry for many weeks. The ground percolated and came alive with the rich water infusion, loosening small boulders and clods into mud, awakening the docile earthworms already on the job, laboriously digging, burrowing, all the while leaving round, marble-shaped mud mounds in their wake.

The pervasive scent of flora came from the gardenia, its white blossoms giving out that sweet, unadulterated perfume. Then there were the sweet-sop trees, their branches sagging under the weight of ripening fruit. The guavas, pomelo trees, and goose berries added to the

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Atis – SweetSop

overall garden aroma, accented only by the blooming orchids hanging in their coconut husk nests.

From my cot bed I filled my lungs with healthful rain-cleansed morning air. The spectacular sunrise burst out in splendor lighting up the morning firmament; I wasn’t moved. I just wanted to linger and lounge on my cot bed, wax the grateful dead, oblivious

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Pan de Sal

to life itself and remaining zombie-like.

And so I tarried, half-asleep, but enjoying the smell of freshly brewing roasted-rice coffee. I heard the familiar cry, “Pan de Sal,”… “Pan de Sal,”… the Doppler effect taking over the sound fading into the distance.

Whatever Happened to. . .


“I’m so glad to get out of this concentration camp!” Carmen declared as she received her high school diploma. Somewhat hot-headed, she’s had several run-ins with the school principal, Reverend Mother Marie Cabrini. Carmen was a straight A student. Excellent in athletics she represented the school in the inter-provincial intramural contests as the varsity volleyball team captain. Under her leadership they have won titles two seasons in a row.

That summer we heard Carmen won a full athletic scholarship to the University of the Philippines, the most prestigious college in the entire Philippine archipelago. It came as no surprise. The class overwhelmingly voted Carmen most likely to succeed. Carmen’s good fortune was the talk of the town. Her securing a full scholarship inspired many from her graduating class. Even those who had no plans of attending college. Why, the news even prompted Dalub Guro, an otherwise shy and timid geeky young man, to apply for acceptance at Saint Louis University in Baguio City. Dalub was going to just hang out, watch the bull rushes grow by the sloughs of Barangay Dardarat and gather edible snails and frogs.

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Carmen’s Family – (L-R) Muslim Pearl Diver Limahong Al Habandi, Limahong’s mother Palestra, two older children, and Carmen holding the baby.

Their graduating class held a reunion recently. A little over half the class attended. For many, class reunions turn out either good or bad depending on many factors. That’s one reason for the low turnout. Some class members had gone overseas to work, many of them settling for mundane, domestic jobs. Most of the overseas workers didn’t make it to the reunion. Carmen was not in attendance. Everybody looked for her. She was nowhere to be found.

Dalub Guru was there though. Resplendent in a three-piece suit, Dalub was a changed personality. He was no longer shy and timid. He had gotten rid of his terrible acne, traded his thick horn-rimmed glasses for contact lenses and took on the persona of a Tommy Lee Jones. There were rumors that Carmen wound up in Mindanao teaching Math and Science at a local high school. During a class excursion to the coast that Carmen supervised, a secret admirer, a Muslim pearl diver, one of her older students in her class allegedly abducted her. He kept her sequestered in his house for at least six months before letting her free. She married him unwillingly. But as dictated by the local laws and morality rules she had no choice.

Class reunions, where, “Whatever happened to. . . .?” questions allow folks to catch up with former classmates. Class reunions, where the answers given are bound to shock you.