It suddenly occurred to me as I was editing my prospectus for the nth time (for final submission week after next, the prelude to exams beginning two weeks after, gahhh) that two of the three poets I’m writing my diss on are poets I met in high school (and so probably the first Filipino poets I met). We read Jose Garcia Villa in freshman English class. The poem was “God said, ‘I made a man” and I vaguely remember it being discussed as an illustration of man’s vanity, an example of how one shouldn’t be in the presence of God. Or maybe I’m misremembering. I do remember very clearly this one class when our English teacher, for whatever reason, asked us what we liked in a guy. No one volunteered to respond so she called on my friend P to answer the question. P’s response? What do I like in a guy ba, kamo? Ang sagot ay: hairy chest. Hahaha! Yes, of course, that is what a thirteen-year-old would like in a guy, tanong-tanong ka pa kasi, e. Totally unrelated to Villa, but whatevs. I should remind the old high school crew about this when I see them again.
My encounter with Pete Lacaba was something else. I was a junior (or was I a senior? ack, I suddenly can’t remember) and one day while I was sitting around and being bored in class as usual, I was told by whoever the teacher was to step out because I was officially excused from attending my morning classes. I was met outside by my teacher in third-year English who had requested that I (and a girl from another section) be excused from class. She told us to get in her car because she was taking us somewhere to see something (parang kidnapping lang, haha, but I remember her being vague about where we were going). Turns out, we drove to the nearby museum to attend a talk by two poets: Pete Lacaba and Marra Lanot. I don’t remember much about the talk (the more I write this, the more I realize how terrible my memory is) but I do remember hearing Lacaba talk about what he went through during martial law and read “Ang mga Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Juan de la Cruz.” I ended up writing my senior term paper on martial law protest poetry. I’m sure I wrote about Lacaba and Chari Lucero (I think I got her poem from the anthology Versus); I know there were others I wrote about but I no longer remember who they are. And now, here I am, ages later, working on a diss with Lacaba in it. The talk I attended at fifteen years old made an impression, to say the least.
A digression (or maybe not): A few years later, in UP, I once again encountered the high school English teacher who took me to see Lacaba and Lanot. She was my Eng 21 (Survey of English Lit) and Eng 122 (Beowulf to Chaucer) professor, and then my roommate when I joined the faculty of UP. Now I consider her one of my few true workplace friends (and my true friend in general, “workplace” qualifier unnecessary!)–the extraordinary book historian May a.k.a. May J a.k.a. PMB a.k.a. Patricia May Jurilla! (You should read her books, such as this and this.) I keep forgetting we go a long way back; I always think of her as my English Dep friend. And then when my high school friends occasionally ask, “How is Ms. Jurilla?” I suddenly remember that gad, she was my high school teacher. Ang losyang lang, haha.
I always think of high school as the time in my life I couldn’t wait to get out of–mostly because I found my ultra-conservative high school absurd–but good things did come out of it. Wala lang. I feel so effing wired right now, like I’ve had five cups of coffee though I’ve only had two. I really should get back to work. Pero makapag-youtube nga muna ng Sharon Cuneta…