His name is Reinier, Reinier Cagas.
I would always find him with a new toy; a gun, set of pogs, straw-ish gun. But the day before I visited him, I found something else on his table: a worksheet.
He handed it to me, and I could not help but be proud of what he had done.
“Reinier, sabay tayo uwi ngayon ha?”
He nodded silently.
“Malapit lang daw bahay niyo?” I asked.
He didn’t answer; he just smiled.
“Sabi nina Arjay at John Mark malapit lang daw eh.”
“Malayo po lalakarin pa po eh.”
“Ah eh di magtricycle na lang pala tayo.”
We took a tricycle on our way to their house. I kept asking, “Malapit na ba?” knowing that his two classmates told me his house was on a road that we just passed.
But his ‘opo’ meant another left and another right. In the end I had to trust his memory. Anyway he was already nine and he knew his directions well.
As I paid for the fare, he hurriedly walked towards an eskinita. I laughed and told him to wait or else I’d get lost. The dark and narrow paths were like leading to Narnia. You’d think it was the end of the road until you see narrower path that leads to another path.
And after several turns, he shouted, “ma andito si teacher” which made me think we were already in their house. A man was cooking outside since they were using fire and coal to cook their dinner.
I had to climb a ladder in order to go to their house. It was a small house for a family of eight; there were two rooms, a bedroom and the room where I was welcomed.
“Ma’am upo ka muna dito. Pasensya na ho at maliit lang ho ang bahay namin.”
“Ay ma’am ako nga ho dapat yung magsorry kasi nakaabala ho ako.”
“Ay hindi ho ma’am,” she said as she cleaned the portion of the table where I was asked to sit. “Ano ho problema ni Reinier?”
I smiled and replied with gladness, “Sa totoo nga ho ma’am ay tuwang-tuwa ho ako sa kanya ngayong araw na to kasi wala ho siyang laruan at nagpasa ho siya ng assignment.”
“Ay mabuti naman ho! Talagang tinulungan ko nga ho yan sa pag titimes.”
We shared stories about Reinier inside the house and the classroom. I told his mother how persevering he was inside the classroom in terms of cleanliness and the like, but was having a hard time in his academics.
“Ay ma’am ganon ho rin sa bahay. Ang sipag maglinis pero madali hong sumuko sa kapag may assignment o kaya may aaralin na test.”
Her words ‘ang sipag’ caught my attention, and I was glad to hear he was a good son at home.
“Yung katunayan ma’am wala akong problema jan pag dating sa bahay. Masipag na bata. Gustong maglinis, maghugas ng pinggan. Masipag ho na bata sa mga gawain. Nga lang hindi pasensyoso kumbaga sa mga aaralin.”
Well, I thought, it was really nice to hear how well he does at home.
“Ilan ho silang magkakapatid?”
“Lima ho. Siya ho yung pang-apat. Yung isa nag-asawa, nakabukod. Yung isa nasa biyenan ko. Tatlo ho silang andito.”
We suddenly heard a soft cry from the baby inside the room. Reinier immediately swung the cradle.
My heart melted.
“Ang bait naman na kuya ni Reinier.”
“Ay oho ma’am.”
His mother carried the baby on her arms, and I could not help but do “baby gestures” to see the child smile.
“Reinier, o. Mag-aral kang mabuti.”
“Natutuwa ako na mabait kang kuya.”
He shooked his head like he was a bit shy on the praise I just said.
“Kaya dapat, mag-aral ka ng mabuti para pag laki ni baby, sasabihin niya ‘ay ang galing ng kuya ko dapat ko siya gayahin’.”
His sister accomodated me to the jeep terminal. While we were walking, she shared how Reinier acted at home these past few days.
“Yung totoo ma’am di yan maglalaro hanggat di pa tapos ang assignment. Maghuhugas pa yan ng pinggan. Minsan nga siya pa magsabi sa akin na tulungan ko siya eh.”
Through this home visit, I understood why many of them including Reinier loved to roam around the classroom and the campus as well. Still, I was glad to know that some of my students had this sense of responsibility that they had to help at home and that they had to be an influence to their younger siblings.
I just hope that as a teacher, I could make him bring this sense of responsibility inside the classroom as much as he could apply it inside his own home.
Student Number 5, check.