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Mr. William Hall

In the old days, before the onset of computerized enrolment systems, a college student who was not in a block section stood patiently in front of a bulletin board trying to manually fix up a schedule that was suitable. There were those who tried to fill out the enrolment form with morning classes only so they could have the afternoons off; and there were those who did exactly the opposite.

I could not do either; and even if I could, I did not really want too much of the day left with nothing to do. Magastos...

Because I played varsity football, 12 noon up until 2 in the afternoon had to be blocked off M-W-F. Yes, all of you girls who played under me and thought I was too hard on you, we trained under the midday sun!

Truth be told, as much as I could, I did not schedule consecutive classes. Two classes strung together one after the other was not so bad; three or more was too much. The latter would only have meant information bombardment of the sort my brain preferred not to have; and if I had no choice, I would only have daydreamed through the latter classes, anyway.

So, I liked to have these little breaks in between; and did not mind that I had to be in school till the late afternoons or early evenings. Walâ rin namang magawâ sa boarding house.

If I prowled the streets of Avenida, aba’y magastos... Or if I went to Makati, tatanglâ rin la-ang sa ‘dî rin naman mabibili...

Naturally, I sometimes used the breaks to eat. Most times, at the cafeteria. If it felt that the cafeteria fare was something I was starting to see in my dreams, then I went off to the far side of the football field where I could buy lumpiang toge through a hole in the wire fence.

Most times, I just passed the minutes away sitting on one of the countless benches conveniently located all over the campus. There was a bench in front of the gym which was practically reserved for athletes. I would hang out there with my teammates and players from other teams.

Walâ lang... Kulitan... Tawanan...

Or, since I could be introverted when it suited me, I could just while the time away sitting by myself on one of the benches in front of the St. Joseph’s Building quietly smoking; or along the corridor leading to what we simply referred to as the North Gate.

Sometimes, friends and classmates would pass by and join me. It was not unusual to amuse ourselves namumulâ ng mga dumadaan. That was mean; but it was fun.

One saw all sorts just sitting on these benches: Freshmen na laging animo’y natitikbalang; foreigners who sat next to you and tried to preach to you the Gospel; fellow students rushing to and from classes; athletes with their oversized bags; absent-minded professors contemplating the day’s lecture; and, of course, campus visitors who did not have a clue about where they were headed.

There was this one lazy afternoon when I and a kababayan were busy finding faults with people passing in front of where we sat. A stocky man in his mid-thirties – obviously not a student – with a small package in his hand was walking into the campus from the North Gate. He slowed down as he approached us and called out, “Brod!”

My companion and I looked warily at him. “P’wedeng magtanong?” he asked. What would he have said had we said no? But we were bored; not impolite. So I said, “Ano ‘yun?”

“Meron ba kayong kilalang Mr. Hall?”

I did not; I looked at my companion’s face and it was also blank. “Naku,” I replied, “walâ. Sino ba ‘yan, teacher?”

“Hindî ko alam, eh. Pinapa-deliver lang itong package sa akin.” He leaned over and showed us the name handwritten with pentel pen on the yellow manila paper cover of the package. It read

De La Salle University

My companion and I looked at the package; then at each other; and then we broke out in spontaneous laughter. The poor gentleman was looking suspiciously at us so we quickly composed ourselves.

“Kilala ko na ‘yan,” I told the guy, still totally enjoying myself. “Derecho ka lang towards this building and go all the way to the back. Once there, turn right and walk all the way to the white building na nasa dulo. You cannot miss it.”

The guy thanked us and as he started to walk away, I called out to him, “Dun mo makikita si William Hall.”

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