Let me pause for a while as the earth busily rotates around its axis to complete a day. Let me stop for a moment as the world goes on its rapid pace like an F1 race. Let me tarry here for a day— in the past that is slowly slipping away or maybe completely slipped away. Let me, for one last time, sojourn in the four years gone-by before I set forth a whole new journey and an interlude becomes a luxury I might not afford. Let me remind myself of those grateful and glorious days called college through snippets of memories that I sealed in a treasure box buried somewhere in my heart.
Letter from Hogwarts
I am always this girl who loves magic and fairytale despite living in a reality that is oh-so-far from mermaids, castles, princes, wizards and whatnot. I am this weirdo who is a self confessed Harry Potter addict and believes that magic is all about perspective. Indeed fiction is my escapism— an escapism that is not the kind that runs away from this authentic universe but dives in it head first to create a better one.
It was one hot day of February 2010 and the sun was sitting-pretty in the clear blue sky while I felt like a pig slowly roasted under my long sleeves rolled up to my elbows as my thick skirt covered my legs until below the knee. Due to the lack of air-conditioning facilities in the classrooms and the fact that our uniforms made the heat unbearable, my friends and I were hanging out in the corridor where there was better ventilation. It was a vacant period so we had the liberty to roam around campus and chat with classmates which was what I was doing when the school security guard came up to me.
According to him, the principal was requesting for my presence in the office for certain reasons he was not quite sure of. It was not like I violated some campus rules. In fact it was a normal thing for me to be called in the faculty and principal’s offices due to my being part of the student body.
When I entered the room my high school principal produced a huge white envelope with a thick blue line on the top part of it. She handed it to me and said, “This arrived today, it’s for you”. I took the envelope from her and upon inspection I saw the Hogwarts’ (a.k.a. my college) insignia. Yes, it was an acceptance letter from my dream university.
Being an average half-blood with no special powers but the belief in the existence of magic, I hastily opened the letter. My heart was pumping more blood than ever in my life as I read its contents, for one I never thought I could do it and second there were only two of us from my high school who qualified– the other one was Angel who unlike me was one of our batch’s honor students. So yes I was more than surprised that I had those documents in my hands.
The Sorting Ceremony
Fast forward to June of that same year I was seated in the Great Hall (a.k.a. the covered courts) with 2,000 other young witches and wizards from different parts of the country. I barely knew anyone except of course Angel and the few others I was classmates with during my summer college entrance test review.
Chairs were arranged according to houses so even though Angel and I wanted to sit together we could not do so. I was in Gryffindor while she was in Ravenclaw. My designated seat was between two guys named Kenn and Jim who were my blockmates. They were not Harry Potter and Ron Weasley but they were Cedric Diggory and Seamus Finnigan respectively.
H to the One
Aside from the House assignments we were also divided into blocks which were sections for each particular program. We started as 21 younglings in my male dominated block (around 100 plus in my course) where there were only six females. Although only 14 of us finished the course from our bunch (71 graduated from the same course in my batch) this little league gave me the most precious gems– of friends and memories.
Those 21 strangers turned mates were the ones I journeyed with in my transition phase from high school to college. They were the ones I ate lunch with like a pack of hungry lions until the day we learned to become independent. They were the people I spent hours with in the library reviewing and panicking for Mathematical Economics. They were the same faces who went through the same terrorizing adventures with me in Accounting and Finance. Likewise, they were the same company who shouted a roaring “YES!” with me for every hurdle we victoriously surpassed from 2010 to 2014.
The Love-Hate Relationship
For every bulging eye bag, for every zombie hour, for every heartbreaking F and for every sweet A the professors played a vital role. It is funny how we had this love-hate-love relationship. I resented them for putting me into provocative and stressful ordeals, yet, for every trial they subjected me my love for every single one of them grew even more.
Truly they were the ones who threw stones at me and to the other students. They were the ones who tormented me and my pals in the complicated obstacle course they created. They were on the other hand, the same heads who planned and strategized with me to beat the challenges they themselves prepared. They were the same folks who got disappointed when I was dissatisfied with my own mediocrity. They were the same people who cheered for me whenever I thrust myself for something better. Surely the old saying is true, “Love and hate are just two sides of the same coin”.
These professors were the people who held my hands and guided me. However, they were also the same people who let their grip loose and silently watched me as I stumble on my first few steps in my attempt to learn how to walk. They were the wrecking ball that broke my wall and pounded me to pieces opening my eyes, my mind, and myself to the world. Most importantly they were the cement that helped me build the genuine me.
In short my professors were the antagonists in that chapter of my life yet they were also my allies. Not only did they sharpened my mental acumen and stretched my mind, they also cultivated my heart. Moreso, they destroyed the “me” defined by society so that I could have a better view of who I truly am.
My college years did not merely revolve around grades and academics. My parents advised me not to join organizations before I left for university. They told me that it would just create a disturbance that would divert my attention from school to an unproductive waste of time that may lead to chronic org addiction.
Headstrong as I was (and still am), I listened to their advice and followed what I wanted to do– that was to be part of an organization and explore what those associations do. Hence, I joined several groups and stayed loyal to the Slug Club (a.k.a the Economics Association) and the Dumbledore’s Army (a.k.a. the organization for the cancer kids).
The Slug Club introduced me to some of the most intelligent budding witches and wizards in Hogwarts. Although I like the company of the people who were part of it, the Dumbledore’s Army was the one that truly touched my soul– the one that made me truly blossom as a person and appreciate life as well as other people more than ever.
It was not the organization devoted to parties, shindigs and the likes. The DA’s kind of fun was a celebration unlike any other because it was a celebration of life. I never thought that I would be attached to a cancer patient advocacy group, but I did.
The DA gave me the chance to work with passionate individuals, who despite knowing our incapacity to cure the children’s illnesses believed in the importance of a support group for the kids. In my time spent with the children beside their hospital beds, I got acquainted with death. More than so, I witnessed vitality in the faces of those little angels regardless of their sickness. Those little kids who were so fragile embodied with them the true meaning of strength and hope that I, an adult, pretended to have.
Becoming Mr. Weasley
The DA was not the only one that tore me open and exposed me to a different universe. Apart from it, the non-academic formation that the school integrated in the curriculum in its aim for a holistic formation nurtured my sense of connectedness to others.
Contrary to popular belief– that Hogwarts students only mingle with fellow witches and wizards– the school actually encourages us to go outside of the campus walls and participate in the muggle world. The university aims to awaken the Mr. Weasley inside the students by pushing us to the harsh and scary muggle reality rarely explored and experienced by the magical.
Due to such endeavors of my school, I literally dirtied my hands and rigorously labored along with the others to witness a house stood and take its form. I may not have the physical strength of a man but my vigor to provide the homeless a decent shelter gave me the needed energy to carry gravels of sand in buckets [which although little still contributed to the building of that house] and stack hollow blocks together.
Moreover, I became a tutor in my sophomore year to those children and young adults in an urban poor community. My Saturday mornings were allotted for teaching Mathematics, English, and Sciences to kids who were ages four and above. Making them understand the lessons for each session and making sure that their attention was on me for three hours required a lot of effort. What posed as an even greater challenge though was ensuring that those young adults take the words of a 16 year old who was just of the same age as most of them and even younger relative to some. That experience earned me fortitude and helped improve my very limited patience.
My third year exploit in the muggle world was more fun yet more daring. If I would describe it in one phrase it would be, “Max undercover ala Nymphadora Tonks (who is a Metamorphmagus)”. As a junior, I had a two day stint as a bagger, a PR system operator, and a baggage counter personnel while my mates played the roles of janitors, street sweepers, corn vendors, theater attendant, clerks and the likes.
Disguised in an employee uniform, I tried to stay in character like my comrades. The employees themselves as well as the other muggles nonetheless were good at spotting witches and wizards; thus, no matter how hard my companions and I tried to play our parts it was easy for them to identify who the pretenders were as if we had a huge sign painted on our foreheads.
My failure to blend in earned me comments from customers such as, “Do you really know how to pack?” The supermarkets’ patrons on the other hand would do a double take on me that would lead to a really long stare and a surprising smile to be followed by, “Are you new because you don’t seem to work in here. You look too young to be working.”
I had my script memorized in my head that was handy for such queries. Unfortunately the clients seemed not to be convinced by the act I pulled as well as the answers I gave out and soon they would arrive at the realization that I was an impostor, that the place had been infiltrated by witches and wizards pretending to be one of them– observing them in their natural habitat. [On my part, it hit me that I would never win an Oscars with such poor acting skills].
Two days of participating in the labor force surely was a short period of time; nevertheless, it brought me closer to humanity and helped me recognize the need of those on the lower step of the ladder. My eyes were opened in the unfair scheme corporations use to earn more wealth and the unjust treatment loyal employees experience simply because they were not able to get the proper education.
The bubbly security guard, the happy janitor, the helpful supermarket staff and god-knows-who-else, experience inhuman treatment from both their bosses and clients. These workers could not enjoy the benefits they were entitled to simply because their superiors thought it best to take advantage of their ignorance.
These people who took the menial but honest job that the members of the upper social strata did not want to do are being looked down and stepped on by the ones in “better” position for they are not deemed as “one of them”– a person. I witnessed how the customers gazed at the store employees, the supermarket personnel might not know it but I recognize the stares– it was the stare that saw someone less of a person, a slave.
I was there when one patron shouted and acted all bitchy at the cashier assigned in the counter where I was designated to pack groceries but behaved and talked cordially to me despite being unable to follow her orders regarding the arrangement of the goods; she heard the gentleman before her told me, “Hey, you can’t fool me you’re a junior at Hogwarts and you’re here to spy. My children graduated from there so I knew what you’re up to.” I was there when one customer ordered the other baggers to carry his boxes of goods in the parking lot as if he owned them but was too polite to say, “Oh it’s okay I can carry those”, when I lifted one of his shopping bags due to the reason that one staff addressed me “ma’am” and maybe he figured out that I was not really an employee. That undercover task showed me the true color of people, it showed me who genuinely deserves respect and who were the ones pretending to have honor.
To complete the “Arthur-Weasley-Project,” Hogwarts deployed us (seniors) in troops in various underprivileged areas like the informal settlements where my group was commissioned. It was a “Hermione-meets-District-12” kind of experience [yes, it’s a Harry Potter-Hunger Games fusion].
I was paired with Sam and we lived with a foster family who warmly welcomed both of us in their humble home with only 10 square meters of floor size [maybe my appraisal was incorrect, maybe it’s 12, but it’s really small]. The house was built using light materials and originally accommodated five muggles before Sam and I came to invade their residence.
The presence of two other matter meant more space occupied and less elbow room; two more bodies meant two more stomachs to be fed and less food per plate; and two additional mortals meant a hotter house in the mid of day and less comfort. Albeit the circumstances they allowed two random guests they barely knew to stay in their house.
My foster family showed me generosity in spite of having just enough for the five of them. They made sure that both Sam and I were always comfortable even if it cost them their own convenience. The one and only single bed they own was given to Sam and I in the span of our stay which resulted in them sleeping on the floor of their own home. The largest portion of the meal on the dining table [there was really no dining table, in fact we just formed a circle on the floor every time we ate] was given to Sam and I. Even one of their only two electric fans was not allowed to be moved, it was always meant to point to our direction to ensure that we would not sweat or feel hot.
If IMAX claims to provide the ultimate movie experience, my foster family gave me the ultimate-kindness-experience. They cracked the prejudice I had for them which my parents made me believe– their laziness and their wrong choices brought them to destitution [which is a pretty lame explanation as to the prevalence of poverty and why they came to be the way they are].
Based on what I saw and based on what I heard it was not their choice, it was fate coupled with other factors that brought them in such situation. No one wants to be poor, it was not their decision to be part of an already poor household. The same is true with every creature in this planet– we do not have the option to decide which family to belong to.
They were already poor to begin with and having limited resources it was impossible for them to enhance their skill or attain “quality” education. I put emphasis on “quality” because even if education was free, a good one costs a fortune. With the lack of competencies they would usually settle on jobs that pay meager salary in order to sustain their lives.
Their situation was worsened by the kind of structure society built– social classes and marginalization. In order to retain the power in the hands of the few, the rich created classes, a segregation that ensured that everybody knew his/her position in the food chain. Such social construction dehumanizes for it does not deem the poor as persons, rather they are seen as merely medium of production.
I also observed that the efforts of the government aimed at the eradication of extreme poverty were not that effective for the reason that the projects they provided the community were not actually feasible. The resources did not match the requirements of the implemented project and most often than not there was no support system that guided the locality. I also noted that they were deprived of some privileges that one usually enjoys for there were provisions that did not trickle down from the top. Furthermore, the government was simply looking for solutions to the effects of the main problem and was really not attacking the root cause. Why blame the poor of their adversity when they are just victims of a cyclical pattern that has been there before their time?
My life four years ago was pretty simple– I did not care a bit. I was all too focused on reaching my dreams and on getting to the place I desire. Four years of everything I mentioned above however made life complicated. Today the world outside the portals of the school troubles me for there were faces that moved me. It is now difficult to go back to that once easy life when I already became aware of my responsibilities.
Inspiration and Expiration
College would not be complete without crushes and being crushed. I had a long list of boys I adored properly categorized according to their attractive characteristics like handsome crush, sporty crush, smart crush, voice crush, smile crush, good boy crush, bad ass crush, and whatnot. Even though my feelings for them were in various levels, all of my crushes contributed in my transformation from that hoydenish young girl to a more refined but still boyish lady. [Or maybe I did not change at all. It’s hard not to be boisterous and mischievous when I had been like that for 20 years. Besides, Mulan is never going to be Snow White; atleast I now know how to put on mascara.]
Of all those crushes Mateo was actually the one that had the most impact on me. There was nothing romantic between the two of us but I used him as an inspiration. He was not the kind of person who would be easily liked by everyone; nonetheless, he easily caught my heart by being his proud self. I studied harder in subjects wherein we were classmates to make sure I would earn remarkable grades and beat his marks in the hope of catching his attention. It was the only way I knew of for an eccentric and competitive guy like him to take notice of someone like me.
Even if I was perfectly aware that a story which revolves around the two of us would not actually happen I persisted on secretly loving him from a distance. I was already satisfied in our occasional conversations and exchanges inside the classroom. Moreso, sporadically seeing him accept defeat and hearing him request for a hand in understanding the articles and pieces assigned to us were already enough for me. There was really nothing between the two of us, yet I find him an important part of my formation.
Despite being my first love, Mateo was not my first college crush– it was my blockmate Kenn who ultimately became one of my friends. Usually good looking guys are full of themselves and oozing with confidence, but Kenn was different– he was a little awkward with himself.
On the first month of our freshmen year, his pretty face that perfectly matched his pleasing personality [minus the grade conscious attitude] made me swoon every day. In the long run I got accustomed to the handsome guy I walked with from English Literature class to Math class, the sweet guy I shared tables with at lunch time, and the adorable boy I exchanged worries and stories with over breaks. My feelings for him slowly dissolved as we became good friends.
I am quite sure that there are many girls who would kill to have a minute with Kenn. I am fortunate though that I never had to compete against them for such good looking man to chat with me when I was silent on my seat, to lend an ear when I needed to rant, to massage my shoulders when I was stressed out [forget about the awkward back massage in the library], and to remind me that I could do better when I felt terrible about an exam. What I liked about him is that no matter how many girls fell head over heels with him he stayed grounded. Thankfully I was able to brush off all my feelings for him quite easily because given my incapability to be friends with people I like, it would have been impossible for us to have became pals [I would never be comfortable].
Like in plays, this particular scene entitled “College” came to a close. It ended just like any other performance, with the casts taking a dignified bow on that bright stage and the audience loudly applauding.
After all of it I am here, sitting silently in the four walls of this room, away from the noises of the universe. My little stroll down memory lane brought me in the state of heightened gratitude. It might not be that obvious that the “me” in 2010 went through a huge deal of transformation through this journey. I am still the same girl who entered the university four years ago but in some ways different from the lady who just went out.
I would be lying if I said I am excited to hop on a new odyssey because I am not. It is hard to simply let go of the comfortable and safe life that the gates of the university provided me. Bidding farewell to the people who became my family and the school that became my home is the most painful part. I am certain that I will never learn how to un-love them, besides I do not have to. I will always love those people [professors and non-teaching staffs] and the school; I am also sure that as the university promised, it will always love me only in a way different from before.
This excerpt of my college years may not have the elaborate experiences that contributed in my formation but I believe that this is enough to remind me of those colorful years and fuel my soul. Funny how those four great years can be contained in 4,050 words when I felt like it was eternity in each and every moment lived.
I honestly do not know how to conclude this really long entry, maybe I will just end it the same way as my university years ended– abruptly.