Thursday, June 19, 2014

Why San Beda is San Beda, and why Mang Roger is part and parcel of the legacy

The time I was kicked out of San Beda high school in '99 was transformative.

I learned that outside of the asbestos-lined walls of the school I grew up in, from preparatory through 3rd year high school, life was different.

Not so much about it being hard. In San Beda of old, we all knew life was hard. There was no sense of entitlement, just a brutal "be great or perish" fundamental upbringing.

Leaving those hallowed halls did not mean having to eat cheap 15-peso lunches. We had even cheaper 5-peso lunches in San Beda, a five-peso cup of rice with free gravy augmented by what you could bully out of your classmates.

The transformation came front he realisation that outside of the Mendiola I came to know, where rain meant standing outside the campus gates to gawk at umbrella-less Holy Spirit College students trying run through the torrent with their thin, flimsy uniforms; where being maarte or sosyal meant more ridicule than being nerdy or fat; more than the rivalry with Baste, Letran or Mapua, outside the Bedan community, school pride was Vulcan to the jocks or pop-culture speak to the nerds. Outside of the cream walls and asshole guards, the sense of school spirit was a deformed, ugly wench.

Yes. I said it.

While most Archers or Eagles founded their school pride in college and the status of their school, San Beda alums never looked at UAAP or NCAA, bar or board, international rank, and testing scores to be proud about San Beda College.

Bedans have always been proud to be Bedans come hell, high water or a 28-year NCAA drought.


Because San Beda is more than accolades.

Bedans are instilled with pride their first second in the school, no matter when.

I could expound on this further, but let us take a look at one shining example.

Rogelio Lagman.

Mang Roger to any Bedan.

He died recently. And all, each and every member of the Bedan community mourned.

Was he a Benedictine monk? Beloved teacher? Esteemed alumni?

No. Mang Roger, to anyone who spent time in SBC before the millennium was balut-penoy-chicharon-fonkard-load vendor who never had much, but was always willing to give. He was that guy who would crack a balut as soon as he saw you meandering towards him and offer you his ware with a hundred percent acceptance rate, the same guy who would give a son of a senator or a multinational executive fare money -- or a scholar who was barely scraping by -- without a second's hesitation. He was the guy who you would not turn to for advice, but had the sixth sense to know that you needed it and the sensitivity to recognise that you did not need scolding, but a trusted elder to confide in. He's the cool uncle who'd slip you a shot of whisky without Dad looking but walk away with a wink and practical advice that drinking did not make a man, but eff it, you shouldn't be deprived.

He was you companion when the school bus left you. He was the guy with whose help you knew you could always call home through. He was the guy that, damn all, will always be there for you, even if he didn't really know your name 'cause thousands of boys come through his stall day in and day out.

He was "Mang Roger, bili mo naman akong yosi, ako muna magbabantay ng tinda mo," he was "Mang Roger, basted na naman ako," he was "Mang Roger, mukhang iki-kickout ako dito".

That last thing was the last thing I said to Mang Roger as a teen, and all that he said was: "Once a Bedan, always a Bedan."

After that short, passing conversation, I knew I was Mediola-bound after high-school.

Bedan pride just had that gravitational pull. I knew I wanted to study Communications, but SBC did not offer it in 2000. I had to choose to be a Management, Marketing, Com Sci, Accounting or Philosophy major. I chose to forego my dreams and go back to Mendiola to pursue the futility of a Philosophy degree for a person so not into being a nerdy bookworm (which I was for 10 years as a kid).

And the first fucking thing I saw going back was Mang Roger being purged out of official college grounds onto the streets.

Mang Roger was, and always in my mind, situated along the dilapidated phone booths that were once gleaming halls to the PLDT Fonkard.

But when I came back to my beloved school, he was being treated like toe scum. He had to leave school premises, because San Beda College, the institution, was too sosyal to have a resident balut vendor, when Bedans, proud and mighty, never even saw him as anything else but a fellow Bedan. But times were, indeed, a-changing.

The two things constant in life are change and death and Mang Roger adapted. So what if he had to linger in the blistering heat, his family was always the Bedans, not he asphalt near the phone booths that he called home for decades. For him, logistics didn't matter. you could never kick him out of the Bedan heart. After getting kicked out from San Beda a second time around and going to nearby FEU, I made sporadic visits to my den, always kicking it with Mang Roger outside school grounds,  I know he barely remembered my name but still he treated me like family, balut purchase or not.

I saw San Beda become populated by vest-wearing socialites. I saw San Beda morph. I never hated that, it was a normal part of life. But more than not hating change, I loved the stability of one Rogelio Lagman.

Putangina magbago man ang ibig sabihin ng Bedista, alam n'ya, tulad ng pagkakaalam natin na magbago man lahat, ang San Beda, San Beda. Ang Bedista, Bedista, ipaglayo man ng panahon o ugali.

San Beda is San Beda the same Way Mang Roger is Mang Roger. He went through decades of Bedans. And he knew that time, culture or trends may change, but a Bedan will always be a Bedan in the truest form of the word.

Mang Roger died recently, but he will forever be a TKB. A Tunay Kang Bedista who transcended time and generations, was treated to how Bedans could not give a flying fuck about social and economic status. An icon, a kuya, a friend, an inspiration. Because every triumph, loss or ache is... "for San Beda, our country, and God." 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Single child of a broken home

As the single offspring of a broken home, there are a lot of things people will not understand about you.

This maybe a place in the current social paradigm that is not as uncommon as it was before. But as a 31 year old, in my time, it was.

The biggest disconnect you will have with the "world" is that you put more value in stuff that seem trivial to most nuclear family-having people.

I was asked once of the birth dates of both my parents. I said I did not know. To this day, I only know of my cousins' Ronnie and Reynan's birth dates. I barely remember mom and pops b-days even if I tried to remember them. Because of that irregularity, the immigration person at NAIA 1 said, "Why don't you know your parents' birthdays? That's impossible!" (I am being very democratic of their command of the English language, BTW)

I told her to not be judgemental, not everyone has had a perfect family.

She said she was not being judgemental and that she might just change her mind and off-load me to my trip to Dubai. I told her to do so, and I'd take my snorkeling gear to Boracay in the next domestic flight.

She then turned red-faced.

Reality is, my fellow single-children of broken homes, they think we're like them. They think we think like them. They think we value the same things they do.

What they do not realize is that because we grew up alone and bouncing from one faction of the broken family to another each and every holiday... We have no anchor.

What they do not fathom is that we put eternally more value into friendships, memorable places and experiences than they do and that, no matter how how nonsensical it may seem, we MAY favor one parent over the other, given specific circumstances.

Because when they go to some place as awesome as say, Palawan, when they sky dive for the first time, when they finally see a place they only once saw on the telly, they most often do so with people even more awesome than the place or experience: their families. The skiing experience pales in comparison to how their mom - vaunted pillar of the fam - ate ice. The trip to a surfing paradise comes in second to the hilarious ways their sibling wiped out. How the sumptuous food of Singapore became forgettable compared to the awkward way dad first used chopsticks.

Their friends would never come close to their relationships with siblings or parents, no matter how rebellious they may seem to be. Not in the long run.

Us? Our parents barely know us. And past the teenage years of rebellion, our friends still know us better than the people who share our last or middle names. For a kid who grew up with aunts and uncles, its our friends who form the safety net beneath the trapeze as we grow. Sure, the cousins, the aunts and uncles, even the gramps may be there, but without a mom and pop, nothing really sticks as much.

They will never understand how we can think of a place, a vacation, a friend's family more fondly than we think of our non-existent family.

They will never understand that what was neglible for them - a family tied by blood that was always going to be there for you no matter what - was a mere dream for us. A dream made up for with ultra-close friendships and fond memories of times and places that gave us roots that we were always seemingly scrambling for.

 Most people will always look at you as a freak. Most people will never understand your unwavering loyalty to friends, your unabashed sentimentality about places not your hometown, your need to connect with old buddies.

They will never understand that no matter how mature you get, how you patch things up with the "fam", you will always and forever treasure the "family" that was there when the real one wasn't.