Udis the Great, Chapter 7
Udis the Great, Chapter 7
© Dr. Udis Sanchez Manalansan-Lord, Ph.D.
During that time, grade 1 to 6 was free. After that, we had to go to a nearby high school, Sta. Cruz Central Institute to attend high school.
Because nobody can afford it, very few students went to high school. In fact, many children my age were sent to work as servants to help their parents buy rice for their younger brothers and sisters.
The family were big because we were Catholics and we could not afford birth control pills.
In grade school, we started the day by singing the Philippine National Anthem. When they rang the bell, while we were playing outside, we were trained to drop on the ground face down.
At that time, I did not understand why, neither did I ask. Today, I understand why we were trained to drop on the ground when they rang the bell. It was because it was just the end of the Japanese Occupation.
They were training us to prepare in case of bombing from enemies.
When I was in grade four, we had spelling contest once a week. The boys were pitted against the girls. We stood in front of the class. Anyone who misspelled the word had to sit.
One day, I came in late, the girls were losing. They clapped as soon as they saw me entering the room. That is because I beat all the boys in spelling. The girls always won the spelling contest because of me.
I was always the last one standing. I won all the spelling contests!
We all went to grade school barefooted. One day, I saw a girl named Grace wearing a pair of rubber tongs that her brother who worked in the city sent her.
I was amazed! I told myself, “I will have a pair of those.”
So, that was when I started planting rice in the ricefield for fifteen cents a day.
My mother did not approve of it. She and my sister Tess planted rice. She was trying to protect me from the hard work.
The first day I came home after planting rice, felt like somebody beat me with a baseball bat from head to toe.
Still, I returned to plant rice the next day.
One day, I planted rice without eating breakfast. Late in the afternoon when I came home, the last thing I remembered was that I passed by a group of people listening to the radio that was inside a wooded Coca Cola case that was nailed on top of the acacia tree so that everyone can hear it.
The next thing I remembered was that I was sitting on my mother’s lap inside our house. She was trying to feed me with boiled rice. I must have passed out from fatigue and hunger.
I was able to buy the rubber tongs.
It was in grade school when my classmate Norma showed me a JC Catalogue that her uncle who joined the U.S. Navy sent her.
I was impressed with the pictures of Americans wearing shoes, the carpets, etc. That was the first time I saw Americans.
That was when I realized that when I grew up, I will go to America.
It was also during this time when, during the barrio fiesta in San Pablo First, I saw the then President Diosdado Macapagal speak on the stage about his families’ poverty when he was growing up.
He told a story about when he was being given a medal in school, his mother was hiding behind the bushes watching him because she was wearing rags, and did not want to embarrass him.
President Diosdado Macapagal, was born in our barrio. So, I told myself, when I grow up I want to be like him. I do not have to stay poor. I will be somebody someday.
My father used to tell me stories about President Diosdado Macapagal’s father. He used to ask my grandfather for some chicken eggs so that Diosdado can have some food for lunch at the high school.
About during this time, my sister Tess went to Olongapo and lived with my aunt to work as a salesgirl at a fabric store.
Later on, she learned how to be a meat vendor. She gave my mother some money to send me to high school in Sta. Cruz Central Institute.
I walked from San Pablo to Sta. Cruz everyday for two hours one way, and two hours back.
To ride a jeepney, it cost ten centavos, which is a penny. I did not have it.
Most of the time, I sat on the back of the classroom so that no one would notice me. The boys made fun of me. Because I was so skinny, dark and small, they called me “Cutit.”
I wore hand me down shoes which I had to stuff with newspapers. We wore uniforms, dark blue skirt, white shirt and a blue necktie with SCCI embroidered in white.
SCCI means Sta. Cruz Central Institute. It was a school founded by Father Balthazar, a Catholic Priest.
My lunch was boiled rice, sprinkled with salt, wrapped in banana leaves. I ate by myself on the corner so that no one can see my lunch. Then, I walked at a nearby water pump to drink.
I can still see and smell the ice cold Pepsi Cola and the butter melting on the cakes my classmates were eating, which I could not afford.
We started the day by singing the Philippine National Anthem. Then, as each of our 8 teachers entered our classroom, we prayed. When each of them left, we prayed. So, in a day, we prayed sixteen times.
On Wednesday, we walked to Church to pray the Novena. On Sunday, we attended the Holy Mass. They checked the attendance underneath the acacia tree near the church door.
We studied Theology.
I never saw a child disrespect an adult. I never saw a fight in school, in the barrio where I grew up or in our household. Our parents did not raise their voice, nor used profanity. They were hunmble, calm, kind, respectful and God fearing.
They had to vote for the school muse, the most beautiful girl in the school. As a joke, one of the boys told everyone to vote Udis as the muse.
I was voted the Muse.
I was so mad!!! That was when I swore to myself, “Someday, I will make somebody of myself, you will worship the ground that I walked on.”
Little did I know that when I came to America and graduated with a Doctor of Philosophy from St. Louis University, which is one of the best universities in the world, I would be called by the Asian Promotion of North America in Chicago, to be crowned Ms. Asia International Beauty of North America, based on my academic achievements, talents in the arts, physical fitness and humanitarian services.
My mother worked as a servant to help pay for my high school. She washed peoples’ clothes with her bare hands. She used to come home with her hands bare with sores from being soaked in soap and water day and night.
Some people made fun of her because she was sending me to school when she cannot even afford it. She did not listen.
I had to prove them wrong, my mother right.
I graduated as the First Honorable Mention in high school.
For further information, visit www.drudislord.com