Choosing curves


He gave me a one-arm hug and whispered, “Dear, you gained some weight.”

“Really? Thanks!” Finally, I’m finally getting back the curves I lost.

“Uh, honey, I don’t mean it in that way…”

I looked into him and realized he’s not kidding. It’s really probably time to let him go.

Pisay’s Pabaon


May nalaman akong chismis,” a classmate announced as soon as I plopped my bag on an empty chair.

Ano?” I asked as I searched for my notebook in the black hole that is my bag.

“Pisay ka pala.

Uh-huh.”

Mahirap ba talaga do’n?”

Preoccupied with reading my notes I unwittingly answered, “It was actually more work than college.”

So there, I finally admitted it — that I actually had more difficulty in high school. Before, I did not dare say it even when it is true because I did not want to offend people. I was afraid of being called arrogant.

Even before releasing us into the real world, our high school teachers kept reminding us that Pisay graduates are often labelled “arrogant” by their colleagues in college. Back then I was still that girl who loved attention and cared about popularity so when I finally entered the university I made sure to blend in with the others — I did not want Pisay attached to my name. Whenever somebody asks where I am from, I always gave vague answers such as “Bicol” or “somewhere near Isarog.”

In a way, I have succeeded. My classmates do not treat me any differently even now that they know where I specifically am from (maybe it’s because of the bad and not-so-good grades I get). However, there are times when I still feel the pressure of people’s expectations and judgment. There was that time when a classmate inconsiderately asked why I was not good in chemistry when I am from Pisay. There was that time a professor gave me the look when I was wearing my Little Miss Pisay shirt (I swear all my school clothes were in the laundry and that was my last resort).

Having been educated in the special science curriculum in high school, people often expect me to excel in the sciences. Sadly, I am a disappointment in that. I only manage to pass, sometimes only barely. Often, I wonder why. Lately, I realized that it is because the best lessons I got from Pisay were not the ones that I learned in the classroom or the lab. Pisay’s pabaon to us, its graduates, is not really the vantage in academics but the life lessons that we painstakingly acquired.

Here are some of my favorites:

1. Pressure makes diamonds.

We were giddy eleven-, twelve-, thirteen-year-olds then. Most of us were achievers in grade school so we thought we could easily conquer high school, too. But from the first day we were already forewarned: Pisay life is going to be difficult. Pressure will come from every source imaginable. Thankfully, our campus director welcomed us by saying that without pressure, pure carbon will never become a diamond.

I know many will react negatively to this but I have learned in high school that pressure is necessary. Yes, sometimes it can be overwhelming for young teenagers for it exposes their weaknesses and makes them vulnerable. But without pressure, people tend to be lax. Thus, they waste the opportunity to maximize their potentials. Carbon remains carbon.

Pisay has helped us learn to respond to pressure effectively and made us see that we can be diamonds. We were taught to acknowledge our weaknesses and overcome them. We were taught to recognize our strengths and use them to our advantage. We were taught to be tough in order to withstand pressure. Pressure from Pisay education has made us strong.

2. Do not expect others to adjust for you.

I was pampered as a kid so I used to be self-centered. I made myself the standard and I did not hesitate to show my disapproval to anyone who chose to deviate from the standard I had set. In grade school, people tolerated that selfish behavior of mine so in high school, I initially found it hard to adapt. I expected people to adjust for me so unsurprisingly, the other kids eventually learned to dislike me. It took a year before I realized what was wrong but when I did, I became more sensitive to other people’s feelings. I learned to compromise and respected each one’s individuality.

Now, even when the university houses an even more diverse community, I am no longer shocked. High school has prepared me to be open-minded. I am not yet entirely unbiased (is that possible?) but I always remind myself to be careful to avoid offending others’ religious beliefs or gender preferences (I fail sometimes, though).

And when, on the other hand, I believe I am judged unfairly (e.g.”She’s from Pisay so she’s arrogant”), I always remember not to react violently. High school has taught me that being too defensive only breeds enmity and will never make the person change his or her mind. Instead of striving to prove them wrong, I have learned to consider if there might be truth in what others say about me and I try to change myself for the better.

3. Respect and trust your elders.

As teenagers, my friends and I used to make fun of our teachers’ mannerisms. Behind their backs, one of us will impersonate them and we used to have a good laugh about that. We would also disregard their advices and proceeded to doing what we want.

I regret doing so. I wish I had listened.

Teachers have been through high school before so they know what they are talking about. They know better than us. And best of all, teachers treat their students like their own children. That’s why we should trust them. Everything that they made us do, no matter how difficult it was, was for our own good. They only wanted us to succeed.

4. There is no shortcut to learning.

High school was not about the final output but we were made to take tests, do lab work, and make projects because we learn in the process. Thus, taking shortcuts defeats the purpose of being in school.

In my freshman year in Pisay, I had difficulty understanding Drafting and I struggled to finish my plates. Once I had been tempted to ask my mom to do the plates for me. It could have been a sure 1.0 for Mommy used to be an engineering major. But I decided against it and did my job. Sure enough, I got depressing marks on my first plates. But I managed to learn from my mistakes and eventually, my scores improved. Since then, I resolved to do things the long way even when there is an easy way out. I may have low grades in my transcript but the important thing is, I worked hard for those grades and I have learned in the process.

5. Life is not always fair.

These were the exact parting words that our campus director gave us, the graduating class of 2012, on our last Recognition Day in the school. It was just the perfect way to initiate us into the world of adults.

As young people, we tend to be idealistic and we want the world to instantly conform to what we think is rightful. But in Pisay we were told again and again that we cannot always get what we want and we have to learn to accept that. Whatever happens, life goes on.

It may be unfair that a certain person always gets higher marks even when he or she does not give as much effort as you did but there is no point in sulking. Some people are just naturally smart and we could not change that. I have learned that if I, too, wanted high grades, then I need to exert extra effort in order to compensate for my lack of intelligence.

It may be unfair that some girls unreasonably hate you and talk behind your back but you cannot force them to believe you when you defend yourself. People believe what they want to believe. I have learned that I cannot change people’s opinions about me but I should not let them change my opinions about myself.

It may be unfair that the boy I liked instead liked another girl who did not like him back but you cannot force another to love you and choose you instead. Everyone has the right to choose who to love. I have learned to be patient and wait for who is for me.

 

Right now, I am still a construction-in-progress and I am not yet the diamond that Pisay has intended me to be. But Pisay has done a lot to build the person I am today and I will be forever grateful. 🙂

 

 

Compliments for Breakfast


It is a habit of mine to pick up a copy of my favorite newspaper in a nearby convenience store after buying hot pan de sal for breakfast. It is almost always the same scenario: I am automatically greeted, “Good morning! Welcome to Ministop!” upon entering, I go straight to the papers and get one, pay to the cashier, then leave. I had never had a friendly chat with any of the storekeepers even though I have already grown quite familiar with them. Our conversations were always limited to business. That is, until one morning when one of them surprised me by asking, “Ma’am, can I compliment you today?”

I was taken aback not because I found the inquiry cocky but because I found it strange. I had never been asked so in my life. The poor guy must have confused my astonishment with anger for he quickly apologized, saying he did not mean to offend. I told him, “No, it’s fine. You may.” So he smiled and said, “Then I think you are looking lovely today.”

I will never forget that encounter. It was nothing like the “compliments” I am accustomed to. That is, those that are often preceded or followed by wolf whistles or those that are especially directed on a specific body part (e.g. “Wow, legs!”). Instead, it felt sincere (his eyes were really smiling) and was delivered in a respectful manner. And I have to commend the guy, too. When he asked me, a stranger, if he could compliment me, he took the risk of being snubbed or worse, being reported to the store manager.

Some people might say, “He’s just making a pass at you.” Normally, I would think so, too. Women are so used to harassment that any form of comment on their physical appearance is almost always taken as an offense. Maybe this is why the guy in the store immediately apologized to me. He must have experienced being given dagger looks before for attempting to compliment. I find it unfortunate that even those who have clean intention have to suffer the same treatment we feel obliged to give to those jerks who had disrespected us.

All right, some men can be really creepy. Like that pedicab driver who offered me a free ride. Even after I said “No, I don’t need a ride.” as politely as I can even when I was already feeling scared, he still followed me until I reached my dorm, cajoling me to ride his pedicab for free. Heaven knows what he had in mind.

Men who act like they are entitled to every woman they find attractive, like that creepy pedicab driver, make it natural for women to acquire a defensive response whenever a stranger throws a compliment. After all, it happens almost all the time that we eventually came to conclude that all men are the same. However, this recent experience made me rethink my opinions regarding the matter. Maybe most men tend to behave uncouthly around women but not all are like that. Maybe real gentlemen still exist.

So to that guy who works in the Ministop which I frequent, thank you for the respect. Some guys out there can really learn from you. You just proved to me that there really are ways for a man to compliment a stranger without making her feel threatened. You also made me realize that there really is a difference between a catcall and compliment and that is in the intention and manner of delivery. A real compliment is given without expecting gratification such as exchange of digits. That made me decide to always assess the situation first before acting defensively.

Thus, yesterday morning while walking to the bakery (yes, to get my pan de sal and newspaper), I did not glare at the men who stopped talking to stare at me. Normally, I would find it rude that they did not even hide the fact that they were staring. But I thought, at least they merely stared. At least they did not try to get my attention by shouting uncalled for comments. So I let them stare and took that as a silent compliment. Who would not love compliments for breakfast?