Richard A. Giye

 

OUR elementary school has survived another earthquake. I remember spending many years learning how to read and write under its hallowed halls just above the ruins of the 1990 earthquake.

My elementary school was my first impression of the world. There stood a three-floor building located in front of the school’s wide playing field with an imperial-looking façade. Painted in cream, brown and red,

It had high vintage windows and dusty ceilings. It housed more than 30 classrooms, with wide roofs, high ceilings, and a wide staircase. The sepia walls had big paintings and beautifully-written school and city hymns. The interior was made of wooden planks and every morning pupils scrubbed the floor into shiny red. 

However, only the left wing of the building now remains as a massive part was torn down during the 1990 earthquake. 

Now pupils play under the ruins and big boulders of what remains to be stones and blocks covered with grass and moss. 

We ate our lunch and looked from afar, trying to imagine what had been there before the earthquake.

The children, oblivious of what happened, become part of the lost inheritance and memories of the earthquake. 

Because our school was old and had survived wars and earthquakes, we heard stories of ghost sightings, moving chairs, hidden gold, treasures beneath the rubbles, and spoils of war.

What the earthquake did not topple down is there standing right at the wide school quadrangle – the life-size statue of Andres Bonifacio. Under a cool shade of trees, he has his right hand raised wielding a bolo tearing at the sky, clashing it against the rain and cutting through the wind. He wears a collarless shirt with two buttons open with sleeves reaching his elbows, his red pants folded below the knees and his right foot in a forward stance.

With such valor and strength, we look up to the shrine of the leader of the Katipunan. Painted in colors of cream and crimson red, the statue is the symbol of our institution – how for many years it has stood amidst the many disasters of our time.

Back to the memory of my school grounds, I spent most of my elementary days playing, running, and gaming while Supremo in his muted silence looked after me and the hundreds of children my age. It was like a battlefield during our breaks, with the air filled with shouting, laughing, and sounds of children playing. 

Some of the kids sat at the feet of the Bonifacio and talked to the statue and offered some food. “Aren’t you tired of standing there? Come and eat with us.” 

This statue sometimes played with us, bearing the warrior’s face, and with his bolo, waging war on all the monsters in our young minds. We never thought of him as a

ghost because his statue was like a memory of a long-gone brother.

On top of the rubbles, we stood on shaky ground. The uneven paths of my elementary days didn’t limit my wanting to see the world. 

The half-fallen façade of our school reminds us of bleak stories of the 1990 earthquake that tore down Baguio City; yet, its other half holds many classrooms still pulsating of many dreams yet to come true.