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DLSL in the Eighties: Where Have the Years Gone?

The DLSL façade in the eighties.

If you were a senior in a school year sometime in the eighties, then you know the routine. If you were getting off a bus or jeepney from the west, then you waited till Mr. Pete Cuenca, who was probably directing traffic, flagged passing vehicles to a stop so that you might cross the highway over to the other side.

If you were arriving from the east, then you simply walked past the overhanging roof-cum-waiting shed and straight up the pebbled steps. At the top landing, you turned right and probably ignored the white statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary underneath the flag pole. Or, you could have walked straight on into the gymnasium on your way to the hall that you called, as everybody did, the 300-wing.

If you are male, then you wore an immaculate white polo shirt with your embroidered name tag sewn above the pocket to the left of the shirt. The school patch was sewn on the pocket itself. You also wore black straight-cut pants and black leather shoes.

If you were female, then you were wearing that uniform which was patterned after that which was worn by the first coeds who enrolled in Taft. The blouse was basically cream with large apple green trimmings. The collar! They looked like the sepals of a flower! Your skirt was apple green as well, worn to just below the knees as was the style of the day.

If you were absent the day before, you peeked through the transparent jalousies of the first office of the 100-wing. This was the Year Level Moderators’ Office.

If Mr. Lito Sarmiento still wasn’t in, you had a choice of waiting for him to come or going straight to your homeroom to deposit your things. Then you could come back for that all-important piece of paper that legitimated your re-entry into the world that was school: the Admit Pass.

Approaching the 300-wing, you quickly checked if the doors to your homeroom had already been opened by the maintenance personnel. If they were, you went in to deposit your things. You were not supposed to linger inside the room if your Homeroom Adviser had not arrived yet; but you probably did, anyway.

You probably had to do the homework that you failed to do the night before because there was a particularly interesting MacGyver episode that you had been anticipating. Either that or a vital PBA game that you just could not miss.

If you were feeling particularly helpless about the homework, then you patiently waited for the class guru to arrive. Every class had these gurus; and it was essential each morning for them not to be absent because it was immeasurably more convenient to simply copy homework from them.

Daily school life was simple. The first bell rang to warn everyone to get ready for the playing of the national anthem over the public address system. This was done along the corridors. As ever, after prayers and the anthem, there was the reading of the Daily Bulletin. Sometimes, you paid attention; and other times, you didn’t. It was never as though the bulletin ever announced anything that was truly earthshaking.

Once in a while, you all went to the gym for a year-level assembly. Br. Jimmy probably had an excerpt from the Bible or an anecdote that you had to listen to. Then, Mr. Sarmiento issued some reminders for the rest of the week.

Then, classes began. You probably had me for History; Ms. Blanco for Math; Ms. Rivera for English; Mr. Sarmiento for Religion; and Ms. Lat for Accounting. You used to ask yourselves this question: “What would the first child of Ms. Lat be named?” To which the answer was, “Eh ‘di Kid Lat!” And you all broke out laughing...

At Recess, you lined up for your Coke and Chippy along with many others in that place which you all called the canteen but which looked more like a sarî-sarî store with grills.

If you preferred to wait for just an hour more to eat, then you probably went to take a pee in the red-bricked washrooms which stank as bad as somebody’s hallitosis. Or, you probably just stayed inside the classroom to do the next day’s homework so you would have all the time in the world to watch TV that night.

Lunch break in those days was a full hour and a half. If you lived close to the school, you probably went home for lunch. Kristin Gardoce certainly did; she lived just across the street in Villa Lourdes.

Or, you probably had fried tapa or hotdog in your Tupperware lunch box. Sometimes, you went to Narkabowl for some spaghetti or burger; or probably to Timing’s or Three Kids for some lomi.

There were just two more hours left of classes in the afternoon. Br. Jimmy believed in balanced education. So after 3:30, you went to the courts if you were a varsity player, joined your club if you belonged to one, went on a date with your boyfriend or girlfriend or just simply went home. The city was still largely agrarian then; malling was a word that was still to be invented.

Unless it was Tuesday, of course. Tuesday afternoons were for CAT. This was when Reggie Dimacuha donned his immaculate fatigues and you would hear the word “Tsun!” a million times all within the course of a few hours. You were happy when it rained so you wouldn’t have to stay out on the field till past five. Guess what? The football team was happy as well to have the field all to itself.

Everything about school life was simple. So simple, in fact, that the cheering competition was such a big deal. Br. Jimmy wasn’t too please about your class sneaking off behind his back to the football field during class hours to practice cheering; but he went back to the office for his camera and took pictures of your class practicing, anyway.

During intrams, you played as many as three or four games a day; and never mind that you were never the sporty type to begin with. Of course, you probably ached all over each night of the intrams and had an attack of asthma before the week was over. All in the quest of a cheap banner to hang at the back wall of your homeroom.

Then, there was the NCEE. It was a big deal, too, at the time. No batch had ever submitted a 100% passing rate. Some came close; but none went all the way. So, you were made to take practice exams and warned to take these seriously by Mrs. Marcia Guevarra and company.

When the big day came, you arrived in school probably a tad nervous. You were the great white hope of an entire school. You probably did not know that chances were that you would have passed, anyway.

Br. Jimmy always insisted that those who did not have it in them to pass the NCEE should not be allowed to get to fourth year since it would only be cruel upon them. Your senior batch was very, very well screened indeed.

Of course, there was institutional celebration when the results were finally released; and your batch achieved the dream that previously seemed so unattainable. In fact, in my own advisory class, the results were so good that more than half my students got 99+. The class’ lowest score was 97; and the one and only student who got that score felt so down because of it. Imagine, the student was feeling low because of a score that 90% of the entire senior class would kill to have!

There was also the Stallion Drive. Those in Mr. Baltazar’s class, you probably got wary whenever he walked over to your side to gently suggest that it would be a good idea for you to turn in at least half-a-page’s worth the next day. He always suspected that I and my homeroom were up to no good because our total for most of the drive was unbelievably low.

But, of course, we all agreed nobody would whisper a word to him; or to anybody, for that matter. When the day of final reckoning arrived, of course we were Top Class. And Mr. Baltazar was probably scratching his head...

Finally, one day late in March, it was time to go. You all went separate ways. Some went far and beyond the oceans. Some lost touch. Some never came back. Some passed on into the afterlife.

If you belonged to a high school class at DLSL in the eighties and just finished reading this lengthy post, what will your thoughts be? I bet that I know what you are thinking: where have the years gone? It feels as though everything happened only yesterday.

You can barely believe that so many years have already passed since.

(Originally titled "1986: Where Have the Years Gone?")

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