BES(T) Grade School

I got this photo from Poweradio 104.5 FM – Bataan | Facebook. The architecture and style suggest that this building belongs to a public school. This is one of the buildings in Balanga Elementary School. This building holds half of the grade 6 classrooms. The last time I went there was in 2013 when they used some of the classrooms for the 2013 Election.

Since I am heavily involved with my children’s education, I know much about their school: from the foundation day to the school hymn to the founders. Ironically, I could not say the same knowledge about my former schools. I just did not try to find out. Shame on me!

Balanga Elementary School is in Talisay, Balanga City, Bataan. It is a 15-minute walk from our old place. I was six years old when I started going to school by myself. Of course, I’m talking about the 80s when it was safer to allow young children to be that independent. Those were the days when there was zero to very light traffic, when people knew each other, and when minds and actions were unpolluted. The school is big and an ideal place for adventurous kids. My mother always reminded me not to explore the whole school because I might get lost or kidnapped (haha!). We had sections 1 to 9 during my time; the estimated student population was less than 1,900.

Whoever did this volcano-shaped furnace is a genius! In Grade 1, I spent my time watching the top of the volcano emit smoke instead of socializing with my classmates. Of course, there was some humor too, when a snake went out of the crater! The school had several mango trees and plants and had nearby rice fields, making it a perfect habitat for insects and reptiles.

We had buzzers every block to tell us when it was time to start or end the class. Ms. Anita Hipolito, the school principal, only used the bell whenever she saw pupils roaming around the school ground. There was a time when I went to school late. Ms. Hipolito asked for my full name, grade, and section. She smiled when she heard my middle name. I was clueless until I told my grandmother about it. She simply said that they knew each other because they were both from the academe. Afraid of having a second encounter with the good principal, I tried my best never to be late again. (I was never a fan of “I can get away with it).

The school has a World War II Museum on it because it used to be a garrison. My grandmother said that the track and field area used to be the execution area of the Japanese. The urban legend that I heard was the ghosts of the executed Filipinos reenact the scenes. Another urban legend was the ghost of the chained prisoners walked around the school buildings during campings and overnights. I went to the Girl Scout camping twice but never encountered any of them. Not even the ghost that knocks on the door of the Grade 6 restroom.

Would you believe little has been changed on the design since the 1960s? The right side of the building contains half of the Grade 5 classrooms. We had a flag ceremony every Monday. From Grade 3 to Grade 5, my classmate Elizabeth and I used to be part of the flag-raising ceremony. She was in charge of singing the National Anthem while I was in charge of reciting the “Panatang Makabayan” and later, the “Panunumpa sa Watawat.” Frankly, I had a slight stage fright but I was more scared to say no to my Grade 3 teacher. Hahaha!

I was painfully shy in grade school so I was not able to make a lot of friends. I only knew them by their faces. The teachers probably sensed that I was the shy type so they wanted to develop my personality. In Grade 4, Ms. Pruna assigned me and Mary Ann to be Ate Meding’s store assistant during break time. There was nothing special about it except that we got to take our recess longer than usual. The duty was once a week only. I had a hard time dealing with multiple buyers at the same time. It was also around this period when I felt that I was transitioning from being a child to a tween. Somebody asked me who I thought was the most good-looking guy in the school. I answered honestly. My classmate picked it up and made a story about it. It was a harmless crush, an admiration. I was not even in love yet! The 80s was a conservative time and girls were not supposed to tell about their crush/es. I felt very uncomfortable whenever that guy was around because it was never my intention to expose him or my admiration. On the other hand, kids of today are cool about telling who their crushes are and it’s no big deal.

In Grade 6, I wore a gown that my grandmother paid for me. The shoes were bought by my father’s friend. I was excited to go to high school because, in my young mind, I would no longer be tasked to clean the school grounds before and after classes. Private schools don’t ask their students to clean the school premises. Before the pandemic, I learned that one of my children was tasked to clean the school grounds as a penalty for being late. I just brushed it off, there’s nothing wrong with imposing discipline and there is nothing wrong with cleaning. I have been there, I have done that, I survived! I was just too childish then to appreciate the task.

Credit to Poweradio 104.5 FM – Bataan | Facebook for the photos. Thank you, I remember the good old days.

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