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.

Why?

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." 
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