It’s been almost a year since I left Raya. It’s a small school which has been a home to me for some time.
I remember the old room where I used to stay, the wooden floor which ticks and clicks every time I walk and every time my students run. I remember the charts especially our Freedom wall where the kids write and draw ideas they have in mind. The big mirror, too which is in a way an extension of the board we had. And the little tables and chairs which are heavy and tire us out when we put them to the side so we can have a bigger area to play. The wide glass windows where we put hearts every February 14 to remind people passing by that it’s Valentine’s. The stories we read especially Carancal’s. The Philippine flag displayed proudly inside the room. How can I forget the incident reports? Haaay… They pile up at the end of the day. Some of them serious but most of them talk about kids engaged in petty fights.
I remember the grade 1 kids both Masinop and Matapat. Their endless complaints about each other which is more funny than annoying at times. The things they write in our Joke Corner which never fails to amuse me. Dylan’s invitation for her garden wedding with Miggy just to name one:) The games we play which make them go crazy and the teachers angry. The native songs they sing with Teacher Lily. I remember Pista, Ili Ili, and the Ilongo food we made out of clay. Also the many over times for Hinabi. All the costumes (chicken costume, pig costume, hunyango costume, etc.) and props we had to prepare. The happy and proud smiles on the kids’ faces as tears welled up in some of the parents’ eyes were indelibly inked in my head.
I remember the teachers and other people I’ve worked with. The many stressful hours days before and after the exams. I remember the happy trip to Hong Kong with Camille, Alex, Jeanne, Isbel and Ruth. The airplane ride, my magic bag, the endless walk, and all the tipid mode we had to exercise. The climb to Pinatubo and the breath taking view on top. How can perfect beauty arise from chaos? The escapades in Ilocos with Cpie and Noreen, meeting new friends like Ms. Vicky, learning how to travel light from Cherry.
I remember getting sick for more than a month. The lonely Christmas and New Year inside the hospital. The worries as bills went up. The loneliness as I felt helplessly glued to bed day and night. I remember Mama’s care and the many warm hugs I received when I finally got back. I remember Ondoy and the one week vacation after that. It’s not really vacation after all because we had to do serious cleaning in our house. I remember the fear it left in me every time I see clouds turn dark. I remember crying silently while nursing a broken heart. I remember Papa dying without me by his side. I remember the lonely walks in UP, the silent stay in the chapel which helped me a lot. I remember crying for weeks at night. I remember slowly getting better until finally I realized I’m alright.
I remember getting scared when I finally decided to walk away from all of these. I remember telling Teacher Ani about my plans. I remember the reply I got from her after her which spoke of trust, friendship, and love. The dinner in Tramway and all of Teacher CP’s jokes which still make me laugh. I remember the last pay check.
I remember feeling devastated when I realized my plans will not work out. The long period of crying and waiting. I remember going to many different places just to get a job. All the struggles and dead ends. Things going wrong left and right. I remember burning through all my savings fast, then the danger sense that started tingling afterwards. I remember all the people I met along the way when I was confused, hopeless, and sad. I remember doing things afraid just to get what I want. I remember making many mistakes only for me to learn what I really want.
On my way to Raya last Tuesday, all these things went back to my head.
When I was finally inside, I realized how much things changed. The office was moved to a different place. New rooms were added. There were many faces and names to remember. Most of my friends are still there. The others were gone pursuing their own dreams. The kids were bigger and taller. Yet in my eyes, they will always be the little boys and girls whom I played and learned with in the not so long past. I realized too that it wasn’t only them that changed. Amidst the laughter and endless stories, I realized that it is I who in many big ways changed. Because now I am older and wiser, million ways better than I was when I was there with them.
Truly, there will be seasons in our lives when we will be challenged to run away from the old and familiar so we can embark on new adventures. It’s enticing but also scary. The thought of doing something different stirs your spirit. You’re intoxicated by the promise of the future that is yet to take place. You are bound to get all the luck you will need once you decide to step into the challenge. It seems as if all the grace abounds toward you. But after some time, you realize that the journey that awaits you is not that easy. You will be tested again and again. You will stumble and fall. You will make mistakes that will make you think small of yourself. Many times, the thought of turning around to pick up things where you left them off will cross your mind. How can you be so sure if it’s worth the gamble anyway? It is in this moment when you will need more than all the luck the universe can give. For when you’re hitting rock bottom and don’t know what to do, you will need faith which will give you hope. You will need your family who will love you and support you. You will need friends who will encourage you and offer help. You will need yourself and all the dignity and determination to continue despite the odds. You will need a God who will tell you He loves you. He will protect you. He will never leave your side. Hold on. Great good will come.
Fear still courses through your body but you’ve been through a lot to give up now. There’s no returning to your old life anymore. And once you choose to carry on despite the confusion and heart aches, you’ve won half of the battle. The world belongs to you. Success may be a long way to go but is still reachable. So you try, and you cry, and you try, and you cry. It’s a cycle that at first seems won’t stop. But you just keep pushing. And when you finally get what you’ve been dreaming of, when that one single thing that’s keeping you alive is now in your hands, you start looking back. You cry and you smile at the same time. The old things, people and places again enter your mind. This time you don’t just remember. You understand:)