His name is John Carl. John Carl Abogado.
I call him Abogado since there are two John Carl’s in the classroom. He’s a very quiet student, barely recites and participates activities. He would just be there, listening.
His several absences bothered me. He would have this ‘interval’. At first I didn’t notice until I checked my form 1 wherein he would be absent every week.
I had six students with me that time who said they’d join me since they live near John Carl. Ivan and C-jay were there, Jaycee, Glen, Kenli and Ryan. Realizing that I had some of the let’s say the ‘boy-angas-group’ in my class and they live in the same town, I wonder if there’s a relationship between where they live and how they behave inside my classroom.
Two of them were clinging to me. I passed by Jerico’s mother who also live near there, and she asked why I was with some of my students.
“Ay bibisita lang ho.”
“Saan sa Abris?”
“Ay ma’am ilagay niyo yung bag niyo sa harap. May laptop ka jan?”
“Wala naman po.”
“Buti naman ma’am. Maraming snatcher dun eh at kung anu-ano pa.”
I visited three of them there already, but I had no experiences with such. The fear crept inside me, and it didn’t subside when my students started to talk about the death of several people in their town.
“Teacher madami na namatay dun!” Kenli said. “Madaming binabaril!”
“Kuya ko nga eh binaril dito.” Jaycee pointed to his neck. “Bang!”
“Ha?! Eh asan na kuya mo?”
“Patay na!” He said. “Napagkamalan.”
They told me more of these, and I just laughed it off by saying that they were my bodyguards.
“Teacher yung bahay nina John Carl katabi ng kanal.” Kenli said. “Tapos lagi pa namin yun nakikitang walang t-shirt.”
“Oo nga!” Ryan agreed. “Basta teacher magugulat ka dun kasi daming basura.”
We rented one tricycle where I told them I would treat them. They were very excited about me treating them, me going out with them, and us riding one tricycle.
It was like a field trip.
It was the same road I traveled when I visited C-jay and Ivan, only a little farther and steeper.
When we arrived, I knew that what Kenli stated was true. Their house was in fact in front of a dirty bulk of trash where stones piled up. After several minutes of shouting John Carl’s name, he went out.
He called for his father afterwards, and his father welcomed me in. I told my students to stay for a while if they could.
So there, I asked his father why he was absent for these past few days and these were what I found out.
First, both John Carl’s parents are working outside Quezon City. His father works in Laguna, his mother works in Saudi. His father only goes home on Sundays. I was in good timing that he went home because he had no assignments.
Second, his ate gives his baon. No ate present, no going to school.
I looked at John Carl with a sad look, and I had this very depressing feeling that pulls me down.
The question again is how?
“Pero papasok na po siya bukas?”
“Oho wag ho kayong mag-alala papasok na ho siya bukas.”
I said goodbye to them with a worry that he will not go to school tomorrow. There will always be this worry, that a student would stop going to school because of these reasons, and well, is there something I can do about it if it’s already in my circle of concern?
I will try my best to keep you, John Carl, but I hope my best goes that far.
Student Number 10, check.