Friday, December 13, 2013
My High School Years in the Philippines
I went to high school in Barotac Viejo, Iloilo, Philippines from 1947-1951. I was only 13 years old in 1947. I was a shy and skinny teenager, but smart and had a photographic memory according to my parents. I was not athletic at all but an avid reader and maybe called a nerd in today's lingo. I graduated valedictorian of my school class at age 17. I was a voracious reader of several books that my parents were able to save from the bombing of our house in Jaro just after at the start of American-Japanese War in the Philippines on December 7,1941.
I remember listening to radio soap operas( Aklat Ng Pagibig- Book Of Love) with my family in the early evening from Monday to Friday. There was no television then. No Computers, no Internet, no Charge Cards or FaceBook. Our only two luxuries were a weekly subscription of an English news magazine, the Philippines Free Press for my father and the subscription of a local Magazine for my mother named Yuhum( Smile) published in the dialect called HILIGAYNON. The Yuhum contains episodes of novels in the Ilonggo dialect that the whole family anticipates eagerly week by week. As soon as we received the magazine, my mother has the first priority. After she finished she will pass the magazine to me. It is only after, I finished reading the magazine that it is free to all other members of the family. Our maids and helpers were the last in the order of priority for readership.
The Philippine Free Press was my father's favorite news magazine. I remember reading all the weekly news, the fight for democracy in the country, corruption and other political issues and subjects during that time. Yes, I remember there was corruption in the Philippines at that time, but not as blatant and rampant as of today with the pork barrel scams and several others corruption activities of the Pinoy politicians.
I was also lucky to get a subscription of a monthly US Magazine called The Farm Journal published in Iowa, USA. In one issue, I sent a letter to the Editor, describing how I enjoyed the journal specifically an article on gardening and fruit trees culture. I was surprised my short letter was published. Along with the notification of publication, I received a $1 cash payment. This was the first dollar I have earned in my life. Needless to say, I was so proud receiving that one dollar, I brag about it in my high school class. All my classmates were envious of my accomplishment and were very curious how I was able to do it. I did not spend the $1 but keep it in my scrapbook. At that time the dollar to peso exchange was still 1 to 2. My guess was that the value of that one dollar at that time is now equivalent to $50 today.
Another activity that I treasured was reading comics magazine of Batman, Superman and the Classics such as Les Mesirables, Don Quixote, The Last of the Mohicans and Tale of Two Cities. I have a collection of these comics that I treasured. When I left for college in Diliman, Quezon City, I placed it in a trunk with my photos and scrapbook. Four years later, after I graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, I went back to Iloilo and my trunk was gone. I have no idea where it went. My father was supposed to know where it was but he died that year.
The memories during my high school years when there were no computers, television, Facebook, YouTube or charge cards, I will always treasured. Today, I often wonder how I survive those years without today's amenities and luxuries and technological advances.