Every school teacher had a symbol of authority, the meter-long bamboo stick! It served the purpose of pointing at a pupil to stand up and recite or answer questions, to wake up a sleepy student, to punish an erring student, and to point at objects or things on the blackboard.
At that time the policy or motto was: SPARE THE ROD AND SPOIL THE CHILD. This is Biblical and I believe in it as 100% correct!
Hence, our teachers were FEARED by students. They were also admired and envied because of their well-groomed appearance, pretty dresses, and shoes, with above-the-knee stockings. Most teachers were ladies. In our elementary school in the so-called LONG BUILDING near the plaza, only the Principal Teacher, Mr. Manuel Celgate, was a male teacher and Principal Teacher.
Mr. Alzote was our industrial work teacher, who taught gardening, weaving baskets, mats, fish nets, and hats. He was feared by all of us because of his punishment for erring students called “BONGKI.” He jabbed his big thumb on the side of an erring student, causing him to almost lose his breath, and the pain was unbearable!
Another male school teacher was prestio PONSO YALERA. We call him PONSO PILATO. His method of punishment was to require every student who did not do his arithmetic homework to bow before him and he used the edge of his arithmetic book to “chop” their neck off. (ANNAY!), like a Karate chop!
He rode on top of a cargo truck facing backwards and a phone wire caught the back of his head or nape, flinging him to the ground DEAD! I guess he got back what he did to others. THE GOLDEN RULE! All of us victims of his sighed a sigh of relief – Good!
My grade one teacher, prestre Minang, was very kind and patient. She promoted to grade two before the end of the school my seat-mate Ham Luegenfu, he being able to answer questions — answers that I dictated to him.
He was brave enough to raise his hand. I was shy to raise my voice or raise my hand. Later on I overtook him and we both became lawyers.
My second grade teacher, Mestra Angit Benedito, was our neighbor. She was very strict and was fond of using her yardstick.
She selected me as one of the dancers in a program to be held in the Plaza. During our rehearsal after a class was over, I felt hungry and tired and was not a good dancer. Maybe out of her desperation, she hit my leg and called me “ik-kilen!” (Stiff). My leg started bleeding because she hit a skin disease that was about to heal. I was hurt, embarrassed, humiliated, and angry. The following day I did not go to school although I left our house.
She asked my parents why I did not go to school. I told them what happened. My parents sympathized with me and asked her no longer to include me in the program. They saw my wound.
I can never forget that incident!
Whenever one of her students failed to go to school, she would ask the bigger students to look for him, bring him forcibly to her, and she would beat him until her stick was broken!
Later on I found out from Pat that prestra Anget also punished her, insulted her, and made her cry. Pat told her “mother” (Nana Ansing, who adopted her) what happened and the “old battle ax” went to her school and scolded the teacher in front of her pupils.
When Jojo became Miss Red Feather Philippines, this teacher, who never got married, came to see us and remarked that our daughter was very beautiful! Praise the Lord!
Miss “Sepa” (Josefa) Pe Benito was my third grade teacher and was also Pat’s. She was a very kind lady who sang lullabies to her pupils to get them to go to sleep when she saw them sleepy.
She had a very good voice and never used her yardstick on anybody’s back. May her soul rest in peace.
Mestra Masing Valera was my fourth grade teacher. She was another strict disciplinarian. I heard my classmate saying, Wait until I become your son’s teacher later on and I will also do to him what you are doing to us.
She had a son whose head was elongated and we called him “koppit” (squeezed).
At 4th grade, our industrial work was net weaving, mat weaving, and basket weaving.
I walked all the way on a dusty, stony, muddy road from our house to Gabaldon Elementary School. It was quite far for a small boy like me. And we were in school morning and afternoon. During noon break I ate my lunch with the Borja family in a house close to the school.
My fifth grade brought me close to our house, with the Singson Building only a few yards away. Miss Luz Harber used to ask me to fetch drinking water for her from our house.
It was this same building where I got my first job, at age 10, hauling bricks, stones, and mortar to the masons by means of a pulley. My hands got blisters and my back ached from working so hard from 6:00 to 6:00, with only an hour noon break.
One afternoon when we were about to stop working, it started drizzling. The rich owner, Atty. (Don) Vicente Singsan, shouted: “ARIA, ARIA, MAIKATANO NIKEL!” (Stop, stop, less five centavos!) My pay was then only 35 (₱35) centavos a day!
He later on met an accident and lost a leg. I lost 5 cents but he lost a leg! JBS
I also spent my sixth grade in this school, using my earnings to buy my school supplies, and used (secondhand) books.
One of my teachers was Mestra Sayong, our neighbor. Swinging her yardstick with her left hand, it landed squarely on my book with a loud WHACK!
I was startled, surprised, and hurt. She said that I was not holding my pen correctly. Our subject was WRITING. She roughly held my hand with my pen (a piece of stick with a pen point) positioned towards my shoulder, saying, “This is how you should hold your pen!” She had to emphasize her point with her yardstick!
Later on, after my retirement as a Major at the age of 47, she said, “How young are you to retire with a BIG pension! We retired at 60 with only half your pension.”
Then she added, “Maybe because of the risk of your job.” She learned that my younger brother died as a Prisoner of War, a soldier, not a teacher!
Again when Jojo became Miss Red Feather Philippines representing Abra with her name SIBAYAN in the papers and in the radio in 1970, she said when she visited her and her older sister, Mestra Rosa Barcene, “Umay cami come comablao cadueayo nyen soon cami siga aglalaing cada Salome.” (We wanted to call upon [pay our respects to] you but we are not in good terms with Salome,”), the owner of the house we were staying in, next to their house, in Bangued. The word “comablao” is a term used for serfs kow-towing or bowing, a homage gesture, before a KING or QUEEN. Just imagine how they honored us! PTL!
Then there was our music teacher, Miss Valera, who, instead of using her yardstick, was fond of pinching us between the inside part of our upper legs, or groin. Her pinching was accompanied by a twitching of her lips as though enjoying the sensation herself. She was an old maid and got married to an oldtimer from California, Mr. Borillo, an insurance agent. So Mestra Ana Valera became Mrs. Borillo at old age and she was the talk of the town for being able to “pinch” someone at last!
My sixth grade English teacher, Mestra Musing Buena, was so fond of me that she requested me on weekends to accompany her to the teachers’ conference in the Gabaldon Elementary School.
She was the lightest skinned teacher and was the most attractive young lady then. At that time every lady had a chaperon while walking on the road. I used to be the chaperon of Manang Trining and Manang Conchang, Fina’s mother.
Mother always dressed me very neatly.
When I was a 2nd year high school student I was promoted with Graciana Barreras from Section “B” to Section “A,” where I became classmates with Antonio Bañez, who became my close friend, and with Josefina Abawag, a beautiful high school student.
A teacher in high school whom I admired for always being well dressed with white shoes, pants, coat (we call Conicricana), shirt and hat was Ms. Honesto Bringas, our Geometry teacher.
Another one was Ms. Silverio Gutierrez, my English teacher. They were immaculately dressed in white from top to bottom every day.
And so during our theme writing I wrote as My Ambition, “to become a teacher.”
After I became a lawyer, from 1951 to 1955 I was a law instructor in the Philippine Constabulary School for Officers and soldiers in Camp Crame. In 1957 I was transferred to the Philippine Military Academy, where I taught law subjects and social science subjects, too. At night I taught Biology, Economics, and Philippine History in the AFPSEM, or Armed Forces Philippine School for Enlisted Men.
Jun-jun used to accompany me to school when he was only 5 years old. Tony became my student cadet as a Plebe in 1959 and as an Upper Classman in 1963, when he graduated in the PMA.