Shy girl no more | Inquirer Opinion
High Blood

Shy girl no more

/ 05:10 AM January 20, 2019

My family moved to Manila in the summer of 1967. I tried but failed to convince my mother, an English, science and history teacher, to allow me to finish my fourth year in our beloved Northern Leyte College.  She didn’t budge. I didn’t insist either, lest I get scolded.

I left our hometown without knowing where I’d finish my last year in high school. There was no K-to-12 then.

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I was a shy, quiet girl in school. I particularly remember avoiding our vocational teacher when we were about to cross paths at the school corridor.

My eldest sister, Daylinda, was our third year English literature teacher. She gave me my unforgettable 79 on our first grading period. But I always belonged to the first section where honor students were selected.

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In third year, eight classmates organized our group and called it Splendor Teens. They chose me as their muse. I’m not even sure whether these members can recall now that we had such a group with an unabashed name.

I had four other close friends. I miss and I fondly recall those teenage days when I’d occasionally drop by their houses a few blocks away from my parents’.

The popular group in our batch was the Teenettes. They were campus personalities, all active in both curricular and extracurricular activities.

In Manila, my father enrolled me and my four sisters in an all-girls private Catholic school run by Augustinian nuns. I chose to be listed under the second section, as I was aware of the various challenges I had to face.

“Speak English” was prominently posted on classroom walls. Students were fined 20 centavos when caught speaking Tagalog. Whoa! I spoke English in my former school only when called by our teachers to recite, which was not often.

I cringed in my seat on my first day in school. I was even insecure to speak Tagalog. The words I learned from my Pilipino teacher were from our balarila book, like paaralan, guro, aklat. Culture shock!

The shy girl from Leyte became timid in her new school, despite the fact that it was one of the many schools being supervised by her father. He was then the private schools area supervisor in Manila South District.

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My confidence started building up when I later heard a boisterous classmate yelling to another, “Bye and bye already!” She actually meant, “Mamaya na!”  My parents chuckled when I recounted it to them. I actually felt it was unfair to fine Filipino students for speaking their own language.

I was a late bloomer. It was in college when I began joining extra-curricular activities, like the Student Catholic Action, the Supreme Student Council and the school publication, where I became associate editor. I confidently ran for president of the student council, but lost by no more than 10 votes. I cried, silently.

At any rate, I had adjusted to city life. But I was upset when I overheard a friend condescendingly jesting: “Bisaya kasi!” Huh?! I nearly retorted:  “What makes you think you’re superior?” I was shy no more.

These days, I travel to my hometown every fiesta and for special occasions, like attending my big brother Dante’s birthday or various clan reunions. My brother is the acknowledged “reunion king.” We’re clannish, and it pays to be so. It’s also during these vacations that I make time for minireunions with my beloved high school classmates.

I’ve metamorphosed from shy and timid to confident and assertive. Looking back, I think my four-year stint as high school teacher and college instructor, and my four-decades-long exposure to all kinds of litigants and lawyers, account for the personality change. They have also helped me become a “reunionist.”

* * *

Kat Viacrucis, 67, dances, sings and travels like nobody’s watching.

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TAGS: High Blood, Kat Viacrucis, shyness
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