So high school
For one night I was back in high school. Literally and figuratively.
The setting: my old high school grounds on Katipunan in Quezon City. The old and forlorn buildings, once the recognizable façade of the school, were almost hidden from view by the new and modern installations of an emerging commercial center. In a year or so, the center will be fully constructed; all the school buildings will be gone, completely replaced by the imposing visage of ostentatious living.
That night, for the first time, I was to see for myself the change that has befallen my high school.
Finding parking space in what I consider hallowed school grounds was the proverbial walk down memory lane. My good high school buddy and I took turns in reminiscing about playing in our decrepit, but beloved, open-air basketball court. He pointed out to me the bench tucked away behind one of the basketball rings, where clandestine affairs among high school students blossomed. We caught a glimpse of the multipurpose hall, the site of countless and memorable academic and extracurricular activities. The canteen just by the side of the hall evoked some hilarious memories, for after all, it was the stomping ground of some of the zaniest members of our batch.
After a while, as I maneuvered my car into a vacant slot ensconced among multitudes of alien automobiles, it hit me: I had just parked my car in the former quadrangle, where the whole school, for a time, held the flag ceremony every Monday of the semester. My buddy unhesitatingly chimed in that most students then loathed attending the flag ceremony, and rather chose to let it pass before entering the premises. I laughed.
That cold night I felt my high school somehow standing defiant. Around it, save for the light illuminating the parking lot, was darkness. Still it remained on its feet, albeit temporarily, numb to the reality that its days were numbered. In the face of its impending fate it stood proud, unmindful of its pitiful state.
A few meters ahead I could see the new face of this land, radiant and riveting. Ambling toward it from the former quadrangle, I felt as if I were straddling the opposing sides of old and new, conservative and progressive, antiquated and contemporary. By the time I stepped into the glare of the commercial center, I knew one side had already won.
However, my emotional and philosophical contemplation gave way to the irrepressible zeitgeist of our (mini) high school reunion. For a brief time I was again the skinny, boyish high school student, sharing laughs with some of my classmates, rekindling romances of old, and cracking timeless jokes and puns. Funny how high school reunions seemingly defy temporal limits. One moment we were inquiring about one another’s careers and jobs, the next we were going back to the very first day of our first class in first year. In the beginning we quizzed one another on the reasons behind our present decisions, but by the end of the night we were reveling in our past, not to mention comic, blunders. Thank God for long-term memories!
But I could not help but feel a tinge of gloom in thinking that one day my old high school would be no more. Nostalgia has a way of capturing our inner recesses, to the point that it pulls us back so hard that we cannot let go. Memories are not enough to be the lone portal through which I can return to a glorious and carefree high school life. I want to see my high school immortalized, every brick and stone preserved, so that it may be a towering reminder of an innocent and unadulterated past. The sight of my old high school, intact and unyielding, is enough for me to overcome frequent bouts with languor and despair.
Alas, it is not meant to be. Yet, seeing the joyful faces of my batch mates, my friends for life, I was reminded that high school goes beyond any manmade edifice. In this shared table of recollection and euphoria, I realized one simple thing: This will forever be high school.
Ah, yes. So high school.
Aldan S. Avila, 26, is a graduate of the UP Integrated School, UP Diliman and UP College of Law. He is now working at the Office of the Solicitor General. He says he dedicates this piece to UPIS Batch 2004, which is preparing for its 10th-year reunion in December.
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