Coconut trees chime with the mountain breeze cooling this country school in a cozy town known as the ‘fruit and flower basket of South Cotabato,’ a province an hour and a half plane ride from the Philippine capital of Manila. Children were queuing up to get to their classrooms when I got in for a friendly business chat with the principal.
Cashew Fia, girl in white shirt and sneakers, far left, runs to greet CJ (little boy blue with his back to the camera) who was late for flag ceremony. They are classmates in first grade. Srifle, the Red Riding Hood holding CJ’s hand, is a girl I hired to help (the Grandma who is official guardian) look after CJ. Cheeky, my niece’s dog escorted the duo. That must be his way of saying thank you for the free breakfast I gave him that morning.
There’s a class entrance protocol that is new to me. Each child takes the teacher’s right hand to have it touch lightly on his forehead, and then give the teacher a peck on the cheek before he enters the classroom. The teacher in turn hugs each child and says words of blessing before letting him in. It is done quickly and then the children settle in comfortably on their chairs. They start the class with a song, a Bible verse and a prayer.
Almost three decades have passed since I studied briefly in this school. Corn and lemon used to grow on the front yard. A couple of my family elders have since retired from the school board. Computers now work in the offices, no more yummy ube jam in the canteen, but the christian country charm continues to warm the heart. I will always like it that way.
~ This post is shared with ABC Wednesday ~