Her name is Marjoy. Marjoy Inding.
Marjoy, I could say, acted like the president of the class. She was tough and firm with her decisions. During the first days of class she was bullied because of her eyes (they were quite big), but today she was admired because of her intelligence and wit.
She was my top 4 last first quarter, and my top 1 last quarter.
I was a bit pissed off by my class (which I counted like 60 something since some of the students in the other section were in my class). I stood there in front of them, waiting for their silence.
“Umupo na nga kayo!” She pleaded. “Di niyo ba nakikita na galit na si teacher?”
I told her to come to my table as I whispered, “Ikaw dadalawin ko ha?” and she agreed.
After everyone was out, both of us walked to her house. “Malapit lang po bahay namin.” She said.
But after visiting several students, I learned their meaning of “near”. Near means “walk-able”.
“Teacher,” she said. “Mag-aaral ako ng mabuti. Pagsusumikapan ko maging top 1 ulit para maging scholar ako.”
I was surprised when she mentioned that she wanted to be a scholar.
“Wow talaga! Pagbutihan mo yan okay?”
It was a long travel actually. Before we got to their house, we had to travel a dark pathway. I had to use my flashlight.
Her mother was cooking dinner then. Their house had peach curtains, which I liked. Even though their house was small, it was clean and orderly.
Well, I thought, obviously it’s Marjoy.
“Kamusta ho ma’am?” I asked.
“Okay lang ho.” She replied. “Ito, nagluluto.”
“Ano hong trabaho niyo ma’am?”
“Nagbebenta sa palengke sa Balintawak ho.”
“Balintawak? Di ba ho malayo yun?”
“Oho ma’am. Umaalis ako dito alas dose ng hating gabi. Minsan ala una ng umaga.”
I was like–WHAT?!
“Bakit ho sa Balintawak tapos ganong oras ho? Ayaw niyo ho ng malapit?”
“Mabenta kasi doon eh. Tsaka doon na rin ako nasanay.”
“Grabe ma’am ang galing ho kaya niyo yun.”
“Eh siyempre, kakayanin. Di rin naman kaya magpaaral ng asawa ko mag-isa kaya kahit ako kailangang kumayod.”
There was silence afterwards.
I turned to Marjoy and smiled, then I brought the good news. “Ma’am alam niyo, napakabait at napakagaling po ng anak niyo. Unang araw pa lang sa klase nakita ko na yung potensyal niya.”
“Yung totoo nagulat nga ako ma’am eh.” She replied. “Sabi ko nga sa kanya ‘top 1 ka Marjoy baka pinaglololoko mo ako’ pero yun pala totoo.”
“Ay oho ma’am. Nung first quarter top 4, tapos naging top 1.”
“Yung top 4 nga po hindi ako makapaniwala. Top 1 pa kaya. Eh yung mga kapatid nga niya hindi ganyan kaya nagulat ako nung umangat siya.”
“Eh baka ho nag-aaral talaga sa bahay.”
“Yun nga po yung ikipinagtataka ko eh. Hindi ko po yan natututukan kasi nga po pareho kaming nagtatrabaho. Nalalaman ko na lang, nag-aaral na siyang mag-isa.”
I could not explain the extreme happiness I felt that time. She was a trophy to me.
“Bunso ka ba?” I asked Marjoy.
“Ilan kayo magkakapatid?
“Bale six po. Pero yung dalawa patay na.”
I then turned to her mother, “Ano hong ikinamatay?”
“Yung isa po parang allergy… Steven johnson? Di ko na po maalala.”
“Yung isa po?”
“Sa may Ormoc ho. Noon pa. Bale yun yung panganay. 1 and two months nung namatay yung anak namin. Inanod. Buti nga yung asawa ko nakakapit sa puno ng niyog. Pero siya, inanod. Wala na. Di na namin nakita. Hanggang ngayon, missing pa rin.”
I was in shock, and deeply depressed.
I had a little chit chat with Marjoy’s mother as she prepared dinner. When I saw that it was beginning to get dark, I told my good-bye.
“Una na po ako dumidilim na.”
“Ay wag na ma’am dito na po kayo maghapunan.”
“Ay wag na ho nakakahiya!” I replied. “Gumagabi na rin ho.”
“Ipapahatid ko na lang ho kayo sa panganay ko, pero ma’am dito na ho kayo maghapunan. Matatapos na rin ho itong niluluto ko.”
She insisted, so I stayed. As I waited, I talked to Marjoy a little about multiplication and grammar. Afterwards, they invited me to dinner. We even teased Marjoy for not eating vegetables. I told her that vegetables could make her smart, so she made me a promise to eat vegetables next time.
Truth be told, I feel weaker and weaker after every day of teaching; But somehow, students like Marjoy made me want to stay.
Student number 15, check.