April 28, 2006, I was in a taxi with my mom and my brother. The excitement was incomparable. It felt like every cell in my body was crazily bumping hard against each other, they didn’t know what to do exactly. It felt like I just suddenly stopped from a hundred-meter dash and caught my heart at a thumping speed, which could have sent me to an emergency room. But actually it was a good mixture of excitement and nostalgia – excited about going to college at an entirely new place and bitter about ending up my high school days; excited about my first time to ride sky-high on a plane and scared of leaving the home where I’ve grown.
I stayed in one of the university dorms called Men’s Dorm. Weird? (LOL) The dorm was co-ed anyway. It was one of the oldest dorms in the campus, thus old building, old furnitures, old facilities, old ghosts, and all else aging with years, but the new batch of dormers. The dorm was a sample set of the university’s salad of cultures. I couldn’t help but realize the culture shock. The transition to physical independence was quick and coping with the sudden changes was insane. Night after night, I could hear one of my roommates crying on her bed for terribly missing her family.
I started with 18 academic units plus a PE subject plus an NSTP course – LTS or Literacy Training Service. What turned out bad in my schedule was that I had to start all my Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays with Math. The good thing was that I needed only half a day to finish my class appointments on the same days.
“Tomorrow” and “the next day” were always “the usual”. I woke up one and half an hour before my first class and started my morning routine: taking a bath in a communal bathroom, dressing up with my usual fashion of shirt (preferably black) and jeans or shorts, eating a light breakfast of cheese sandwich and a tetra-pack of zest-o orange juice, a quick review of previous lessons, reading a script in the Bible without missing Psalm 91…and leaving the dorm and riding a jeep off to class when it was ten minutes before the time.
I was a great fan of McDonald’s chicken fillet, large fries and coke float. Every other night, I went out to get myself that combo for dinner – taken out and into my room. It was also during my dorm life when I first met my loyal evening lover – coffee. I just loved sensing the spirit of caffeine becoming a seductive aroma that kept me a bit high and made me stay late until done with whatever I had to accomplish. But a cup of coffee every night was not healthy. It actually made me palpitate and that was stupid. So I resorted to finding another kind of lover and I found one absolutely different – fashion-designing. It was my thing! So I had this sketch pad with acid-free pages and like the size of those in an intermediate pad for high school students. By the way, I still have it until now.
So it happened that every time my eyelashes got heavier pushing down my lids to closing and I wasn’t done yet, I had to grab my sketch pad out my drawer and start doodling. My roommates noticed the new hobby and gave praises to my designs and of course my skill. Some friends from other rooms (so-called wingmates) requested for portraits but I couldn’t promise. I had so much to attend to – necessary (academic stuff) and unnecessary (leisure hobbies and prayer time–categorized under unnecessary because God didn’t give me a strict schedule and deadlines).
My drawing skill became a news which ran up to the office of the “Gawad Kalinga” – a socio-civic organization serving to help communities especially those in the rural zone. Dr. V, head of GK, called my attention via my blockmates in block H1. He requested my willing assistance to their project which required drawing skills. So his wish was my command but with whole willingness. That was how I got involved with GK but whatever I should’ve started from then, it stopped after I’ve handed my output. I wasn’t very interested and that turned out to be a regret.
On the crucial side of a teenager’s life: I had a groupmate in my PE class who became a suitor. He was a good friend and perhaps a devotee to his courting mission. Unluckily, he wasn’t the kind of guy whom I’d last a whole day with him tagging around. I lost my carefree days; I lost my “miss independent”. So I made it an excuse that I’m not involving myself to any relationship the whole of my college life. I had a different reason to my second suitor. I didn’t agree to his request to allow him to court me because I didn’t find it fair that he’d court me so he’d know me better.
My first year in college was not as exciting as the following years. I had only a few favorite places to go to: dorm, classrooms, STCJ (Saint Therese of the Child Jesus) chapel, McDonald’s, freedom park, and my weekend sanctuaries. I didn’t love going to the library nor at the LB Square – an open candle-lit ground which accommodates several dining stalls.
The greatest adventure I had in my first year was during typhoon Milenyo. I remember how the water started to creep into our room until the entire floor was drowning in soil-brown water. Well, a bit lighter than soil. My roommates and I didn’t have a better choice but to get our feet into the water and scoop the water out from our room. We had two dustpans for scooping and a few pails where to pour the water into and throw it in the wing’s communal toilet which was, at that time, very slippery. It took a lot of courage to lie to ourselves that we weren’t scared of blood-sucking leeches, when we all knew that we were at the foot of the leech-rich Mt. Makiling.
It was past 12:00 noon when the management called for evacuation. Hungry by then, my roommates and I left the dorm and walked our way to the grove to find an open store. Along the way, we had to brace ourselves from the cold heavy rain and the strong wind, not to mention the danger of falling debris and branches. Danger was everywhere but the fear disappeared when we saw some of our dormmates playing volleyball under the storm. So there was more courage to get going. We walked the flooded campus roads, crossed the heavily flooded Palma Bridge, and the rest of the roads leading to the university gate. It was funny that we still found time to capture the moments in a few photos. When we arrived at the grove, it was a little wrecked and the sight of it called for more courage. We found an open store in Umali subdivision. It was somehow a famous kainan called Bat Cave, known for its lechon kawali. However, we bought slices of grilled porkchop and plain rice; took our orders out and went to my tita‘s apartment and stayed there until the next day.I wish to tell a lot more stories but one year in college equals one endless story. I had so much fun in my first year although if I’d have to compare it with the next years, I’d have to realize that it was a lousy boring graceless entrance to college.
But if I’d think about my optimism, my will, my respect to freedom, my love for simplicity, my innocence, and all else in the name of God, I’d have to wish to relive those days.I just so love the story of my first year in college, which happened in what I now call my second home, the University of the Philippines Los Banos.