Wednesday, April 8, 2009
(Blogger's Note: This is the first of a 2-post series celebrating the end of classes in Sagada. The school year ends before the Holy Week.)
As a child, I have eagerly awaited the yearly closing exercises that marked the last day of school for the school year. For a sixth grader, it is the first major educational milestone – the elementary graduation. It is a practice common to Philippine schools, although not in US schools. For the first to fifth graders, the closing exercises signal an end for a particular grade level. The next time they’d go to school, they’d be in a different grade, possibly with different classmates, and with different teachers.
The first Bomabanga closing exercises I attended was for my eldest sister’s graduation. In that same year, my 2nd eldest sister finished grade 5, while my 3rd sister, the sibling I was next to, wrapped up her third grade. During this year, I still lived with my father and mother and younger siblings in Gobgob, Tabuk in what was then the province of Kalinga-Apayao. It was the first graduation amongst our siblings, so we made the 12-hour plus trip from Gobgob to Sagada. I don’t remember much of that graduation; most of the images in my mind are what I saw in photographs at that time. (For my family, we buy film for our camera on special occasions only – closing exercises was one of them.) I do remember an overnight stay with the Gayagay family in my grandfather’s Atowanan farm.
The next June, I transferred to Bomabanga, officially known as Sagada Central School, for my second grade. I was coming from Gobgob Elementary School where I spent my first 3 years of elementary education – 2 years in Grade 1, and a year in Grade 2. By right, I should have been a 3rd grader in Bomabanga – the thing is, they didn’t accept a 7-year old in grade 3. That’s the reason I remember, though now that I think about it, I believe my folks didn’t think I was mature enough to be in a class of 9-year olds. (Darn.) If you’re doing the math, you’d probably figured out that I started first grade as a 4 year old. Not that I was a genius – it’s just that my mom was a school teacher and the 1st grade teacher is her friend, and I was allowed to sit-in whenever I wanted to. Our house in Gobgob was adjacent to the school, so my family walked to school. We also walked back home and vice versa for lunch.
I have some vivid memories of the first closing exercises I participated in Bomabanga. I didn’t attend the last days of regular class because I was sick. My parents and my younger siblings came from Gobgob, since this was also my 2nd sister’s elementary graduation.
The format for the closing exercises is generally the same as that in the coming years I would attend. There is the lower class presentation. There were 10 classes from Grade 1 to Grade 5; 2 classes per grade level. Each class would present a short skit, a song, a dance number, or some oral presentation. The graduating class would also do 2 or 3 numbers. There is the award recognition for top students in the lower and graduating classes. For the lower grade levels, awards were given in the form of ribbons. These ribbons were pinned on the shirts of the student by a parent / elderly relative.
All graduating students would also be called on stage to accept a piece of white paper that represents their diplomas. They’d be accompanied on-stage by their parents or guardians. Then, there’s the speech by the guest of speaker as an encouragement / challenge to the graduating class. The top 2 students of the graduating class, the valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, would also give their speeches. The closing exercises would end around noon, with parents and teachers doing photo-ops with the graduating class.
Sharing a summary of the closing exercises I attended before I graduated:
2nd Grade – Our class did an oral presentation. We spelled the word G-R-A-D-U-A-T-I-O-N with each letter standing for something. Two or three students would recite a couple of sentence for each letter. Example: “R is for REWARDS. Rewards are ….. ” I was #2 in my class and my dad pinned my honors ribbon for me. My teacher was Mrs. Mary Dao-as, and our class was known as Grade 2 – Red.
3rd Grade – Our class recited a poem, “Ako ay Pilipino”. I was #2 again in my class. A month earlier, my dad died due to a cardiac arrest. His dad, my paternal grandfather, pinned my honors ribbon. I was in the Grade 3 – Pink class under Mrs. Imelda Zabala.
4th Grade – Our class did a skit that ended in an Igorot dance. We didn’t do the dance with real gongs; instead, we played with sticks and cans. It was my 1st time to do that, and I was very uncomfortable. I had trouble coordinating my feet, hahaha. I was #2 in my class again – start seeing a pattern here? I was in the Grade 4 – Red class under Mrs. Muriel Omaweng who also happened to be our neighbor in Nangonogan.
5th Grade – Somehow, I’m drawing a blank on what our class did during this grade. I do know I finished #2 in my class. How about that for consistency? We were called Grade 5 – Red and my teacher was the late Mrs. Magdalena Pooten. She also happened to be my paternal grandmother’s first cousin. I was hoping that since she was my great-aunt, she’d make me first in her class. Obviously, she had something else in mind, hahaha.
There’s a lot to tell on my graduation class that I’m reserving it for another post. I did want to note that during closing exercises, I fondly recall Mrs. Bosaing’s accordion playing. She’d play the accordion as one class exited a stage, and another class entered the stage for their turn to present. She’d play the accordion standing up, with a leg propped up against a stool, and a hand resting on the elevated knee. I know that Mrs. Bosaing got promoted to work in the division office after I graduated. It would be interesting to know who replaced her as the accordion lady after she left.
To Be Continued...