Dedicated to Batch 2012.
The bell rings.
I wrap up my lecture and bid my class goodbye. I entertain a few questions – this time someone asking me what would happen if the USSR just nuked the Middle East – as I turn off the projector and shut down my laptop. I reply with my characteristic answer — “What do you think would happen?” – as the buzzing of my students steadily stream out of the Seminar Room and into the halls outside.
We finish our conversation – the phrase “World War III” came up several times – and soon it is just me and the timid humming of the LCD projector as it finally cools down and quiets. I coil all the loose cords, replace my laptop and other devices into their respective bags, shut off the airconditioner, and switch off the lights.
Done with my classes for the day, I return to the Faculty Room. But on the way I pass by the Student Services Division to make sure my planned event for February pushes through (it will). Then I drop by the library photocopier lady — “Roxy” as she is affectionately or degradingly called – to check on whether my students have been copying their assigned texts (they are except for one class). Next I pass by the Guidance Office, help myself in, and say “Hi!” to Sir Ed. We catch up on the latest with Batch 2011 (So who asked who from prom?) and I tell him – at least once a week – how much I miss everyone. Then I pass by Ma’am Jeng, the Guidance Counselor of my current batch, and ask whether the kids in my advisory class are all alright (they definitely are).
Halfway back, I pass by the cafeteria. There are hardly any students there at 9am, save for the fortunate few (as they see themselves) who are spared from a Biology class, or the Seniors who fill the lull by catching up on breakfast and other things they need to survive to graduation. I just skip to the cold store and grab myself a bottled ice tea (Real Leaf Lychee being my favorite) for a quick picker up, say “Hi!” to some students along the way, and finally rush back to the Faculty Room.
It is just the 3rd period and so there are hardly any teachers sitting by their desks; often there are just about two or three besides me. One colleague on an afternoon shift arrives early to prepare. I register my cursory surprise at seeing her arrive early as she types away at a keyboard, finalizing her grades and trying to make a dent on the tower of student papers sitting on her desks. Almost always there when I return is Arghs, already checking his e-mail and scratching (more like rubbing) his head over the latest gaffe by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. If not he is worshipping at the altar of Conrado de Quiros, or checking out Wikipedia then checks on me if I already have that latest episode of How I Met Your Mother or The Big Bang Theory, handing me his portable hard disc as he does so. I really should charge him for this service.
For the next hour I check on my e-mail and read up on the news. I reply to some university students asking for my input on their thesis survey, and I draft an invitation to a Congressman for a forum we’re having in February. I then do my rounds of The Daily Beast and Politico, following American politics ten times more closely than I do our own. So I can’t help but muse about how far Noynoy really is from Obama, and how Philippine politics is all too similar to American politics in the 1920’s when it was dominated by the mafia.
Then I hit a wall. My reading for the morning is hampered by the school’s White List – I can’t access a site that isn’t pre-approved by the school’s MIS department – and so I shut down my laptop and instead sift through some papers on my desk – student quizzes, office memos, and my random notes from my many meetings and quick readings.
Arghs and I have lunch pretty early as we try to beat his 10:50 class. I don’t mind this at all because at 10:20 the food is still pretty warm and we have a lot more to choose from. Cafeteria food, after all, is best in its first five minutes of existence.
Often joining us is Liz, a young and superbly upbeat teacher whose optimism always gets the best of you. Currently the Batch Adviser of 2013, she and I can talk for hours planning activities and sharing notes on how to deal with students, parents, and the loveable administration.
Lunch is dominated by a wide variety of topics from the TV shows Arghs and I share, to Liz’s questions on whether I plan to go into politics or not. We talk about our students, school policies, and love lives (or the absence thereof). But it is when Liz drills me on how I’ve gone from an idealist to a realist that I wish our lunch hours don’t end. It is something I think most intensely about every now and then.
The hour starting from 11:00 is what I call my dead hour. After lunch, my productivity is at its lowest. This is why I prefer to meet my AKSIS officers at this time, since being around my officers and discussing our projects really kicks me up a notch. But around 11:50 I am at my most zombified state, and so I head for the Faculty’s hidden couch to grab a power nap. I have mastered that art, and can get myself to wake at exactly 12:30, the end of my official time.
On my way out of the Faculty I grab my course’s textbook and some quizzes I have yet to check. I put them all in my bag as I unzip a side pocket to grab my iPod. I scroll to my 60-song playlist and hit shuffle, but really won’t settle for any first song unless it’s something by The Fray.
Home is a good hour away in Paranaque, and I don’t head for it first. Since January 4, I haven’t missed the gym and so I mentally prepare my route from C5 to Makati.
Driving under the noon sun can be quite the test. The blinding glare and the heat make me fall asleep – hence the power nap before I leave – but I’ve discovered that listening to something loud and bassy can really get me up. Sadly, Staind, Drowning Pool, or all the hard rock acts I grew up with don’t work. But Lady Gaga does. Ra Ra Ah Ah Ah, Roma Roma Ma, Gaga Ooh La La. (In my defense, even Chris Daughtry sings her songs.)
I reach my gym in Makati by 1:30. I stow my car in Parksquare, get out of my leather shoes and into my rubber sandals, put on a cap to keep off the sun, and walk to EDSA corner Pasay Road. I spend a full half hour stretching my body and rotating my hips in anticipation of my Tennis Camp from April to May. Then I jog a full kilometer for warm up. Focusing on cardio work for January, I hit the transport machine for a good half hour clocking in three kilometers by the time I’m done.
As I run on the machines I think about how my day went. Actually, this is when I do all my deep thinking. I review the lecture I delivered today, and reflect on the class discussions we’ve had. I think about what to do for my classes next – Middle East Summit perhaps? – and begin mapping out what our last month will be like. I think about that subtitle for our AKSIS event, and draft a text message I’ll send to my officers once I step off the machines.
Then I think about my life and where I’m headed. I try to define what happiness means and rationalize why I didn’t call back that girl I went out with once (and think about what could have happened if I did). I think about how much longer I’ll be teaching in Pisay and plot what my next step should be if indeed I decide to go into politics. But as I near the end of my run I go back to the here and now. I breathe in, breathe out; I feel the tightening of muscles and pat myself on the back for another good work out.
The I finally head home.
I wonder what mom’s dinner surprise will be. I expect to see my dad on the couch, standing guard over Gibo Teodoro’s Facebook page and fending off anti-Gibo comments with his own snarky defenses. Just before dinner my 13 year-old sister arrives from dance class, and my 20 year-old brother won’t be home until later tonight after his orchestra rehearsal. In the closing hours of the day I finally get some work done. I finish checking quizzes and convert handouts to PDF and upload them on the blog. As I do so I respond to student messages in Yahoo! Messenger while going through my shelf to pick a book for tonight.
By 10pm I shut everything down, and flip open a book to the chapter I left behind the previous night. I go through about half a chapter before my eyes fall and I ultimately catch myself sleeping on a page. So I close the book, slide it down my desk, and I slip into my blanket. I turn off my reading light and soon it is just me and the steady buzzing of cicadas outside.
The next sound I hear is my phone’s alarm at 4:50am. But that just starts a new day.
It is when that bell rings again at 7:25 that my life starts again.