6/18/2008
Secondary freshmen

It was drizzling that afternoon, as I stood outside SBCA's sixth gate, where the high school students went out. I stood outside because, well, my brother would come out any minute. It's already fifteen past five, and the other students were starting to come out, in what was slowly becoming a very familiar scene. And then it occurred to me.

"This feels slightly poignant," I whispered to myself. "And totally weird."

A story is in order, of course. And, although I have supposedly repressed the reasons why I lasted only three months rather than four years in an environment that supposedly opens your eyes to reality, I can't forget my school dismissals. This time of the year is always rainy, and I went out of my last class - heavy backpack in tow - pretty excited to come home. Actually, it was more of a relief; I felt so tired after eight hours or so in school, enduring those sympathetic to the bullies and the bullies themselves. I went down four floors with a heavy feeling, literally or otherwise, and walked the fairly long distance to the parking area near the grade school buildings, where the school buses are parked - and where the rest of the day continues, pretty much the same way as it began eight hours ago.

Of course it didn't feel right. I went into the bus and tried to find myself a spot, enduring those a batch higher than me who either desperately looked for change or struggled to put bubble gum on my scalp. A little under an hour later, I was home, perhaps slightly swoony over Guia, that girl who appeared on a Good Housekeeping spread, or perhaps trying to fight off laughter from whoever was left in the bus. It's the perfect way to ruin my spirits.

Fast forward to seven years later. Those people either are graduating, have graduated, or are perfectly delayed, but I haven't had any contact since I last told the younger Joyce about what HTTP really means. Obviously my story's a little more public than that - I have moved schools, gotten into DLSU, and am now graduating with cum laude honors. And, mere days before that becomes reality, I have come back to the school that has unwittingly - or otherwise - became the background of what I believe in today: people just don't really care unless you make them.

My younger brother's luckier, perhaps. He also moved here seven years ago, which means he probably knows more people from here than I would probably do in my entire life. He went through his entire elementary existence here, so whatever warning me and my sister give to him about high school living, he'd probably shrug it off, thinking that he's prepared.

Actually, I couldn't really care about that then - I was marvelling at the gate. Structurally, it's still the same, although now it resembles airport gates, complete with the signs. "San Beda College Alabang is an English-speaking campus," it proudly proclaims, as I sneer silently at the hypocrisy of such an attempt, before I notice another similar sign peppered, ironically, with animé characters. Everything else is the same, however: there's still the desk where the security guard is, only bigger, and there's still the pay phone, which ceremoniously hit my head at one point.

Thankfully that excuse for a head injury didn't really affect me. I'm still lucid enough to wonder about my brother, and how he copes with high school, but not because I didn't survive it myself. Being the eldest brother, I can't help but think of him as the youngest, as he really is, and perhaps it's the accompanying idea that he's going to be behind you in many ways possible. My attention slowly turns to the people in front of me, coming out, and then it occurs to me: I was one of them once.

To be exact, I was their age once, and that's why the scene unfolding in front of me was getting more familiar. The difference perhaps lay in the earphones and the camera phones used to camwhore with everybody else. But these secondary freshmen - or as we call it, the frosh - are still the secondary freshmen that we were seven years ago. They still wave hello to their friends, do a subtle effort at networking ("blank, si blank, si blank, si blank") and smell very sweaty. Even the girls behind me, chatting about stuff that got drowned out by my iPod, smelled particularly rushed.

And then, the hallucinations started. I thought I saw Kevin. I thought I saw Anna. I thought I saw Donna. I did see one of my neighbors, and then I revert to my hallucinations, and start plugging characteristics to everybody I see. Suddenly there was this somewhat-contained boy who is probably known for doing a Tick Dracy skit in class. Suddenly there was this pretty - and very giddy - girl who always had this look in her eye. Suddenly there was this girl who somewhat struggled with class and managed to get through. And slowly, it happens - I realize that we're pretty much like them, only with a few more accoutrements of the figurative kind, but still acting the same way, perhaps a bit more subdued. Or, you can say that they're pretty much like us - growing us very fast, these kids.

And then you start wondering whether things have really changed.

And your responses...

Congratulations, manager! :D

sabi ni Jan..magpa-steak ka daw! :p

Anonymous sam6/20/2008     

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